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Big Six reviews

British Gas

By Sarah Ingrams

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British Gas

British Gas is the UK’s largest domestic energy provider, supplying around eight million homes with gas and electricity. But is British Gas any good?

British Gas is one of only two British-owned and British-based suppliers among the Big Six energy companies; the other is SSE. British Gas is a subsidiary of Centrica.

It supplies a third of British households with gas, although it shed 823,000 customer accounts between May and November 2017.

It is known as Scottish Gas in Scotland and also operates Sainsbury’s Energy. British Gas also sells boilers, smart-home products and HomeCare insurance.

Its British Gas Rewards scheme lets customers choose from offers including bundled deals, Sky entertainment, energy saving advice and deals with Hive Active Heating or other smart home technology.

Can British Gas save you money? Use our independent switching site, Which? Switch, to compare energy prices and find out.

British Gas customer score

British Gas came joint 26th out of 31 energy companies, as rated by 8,761 members of the public, in the annual Which? customer survey.

Customers gave it OK ratings across the board, although they consider it poor value for money. Its other brand, Sainsbury’s Energy, was scored better by its customers for bills and phone customer service.

‘British Gas is no better or worse than any of the others.’

British Gas customer

British Gas score breakdown 

The graphic below shows the breakdown of British Gas’s score from our survey.

Scroll down to read the full Which? verdict on British Gas, plus find out about its plans to phase out its standard tariff – which most of its customers are on.

Find out how British Gas compares with other energy companies – click to see our full results of the best and worst energy companies.

Which? verdict on British Gas

Although British Gas is the largest energy supplier in Britain, it’s neither the best-loved nor the cheapest.

Customers consider it poor value for money – only British Gas and Npower received this rating – although its standard variable tariff is actually the cheapest among the Big Six suppliers.

That doesn’t mean it’s a cheap tariff, though: our research over the past year found that you can often save £200 or more by switching from this tariff to the cheapest deal on the market. Plus, for some of the year, it didn’t sell any cheaper tariffs.

'They put the prices up and were already expensive’

British Gas customer

British Gas has announced that it plans to phase out its standard variable tariff – which the majority of its customers are on. It says it’s committed to making the energy market ‘fairer, more competitive and give customers a better deal’. 

Instead, it’ll put customers onto 12-month fixed deals and remind them that cheaper ones are available.

Our survey found that more than two thirds of British Gas customers have been with it for more than five years. But loyalty doesn’t equate to high satisfaction levels.

British Gas customer service

Customer service on the phone was rated fair by customers, but it fared worse than that of its rival EDF Energy and subsidiary Sainsbury’s Energy.

‘You get bounced from one person to the next when dealing with minor issues.’

British Gas and smart meters

British Gas has begun its smart meter roll-out in earnest and installed the most (around 5m) smart meters in its customers’ homes of any energy supplier so far.

It also owns Hive and sells its smart thermostats, smart plugs, smart light bulbs and smart locks.

'It makes suggestions on energy saving and is at the forefront of installing smart meters.’

British Gas customer

Our snapshot investigation into energy companies’ customer waiting times found it took more than 10 and a half minutes on average to get through to a human in British Gas’s customer services. However, it wasn’t the slowest energy supplier to answer the phone by any means: Spark took more than 27 minutes on average.

When we tested British Gas’s live chat, it took just 12 seconds on average to respond to us, making it one of the fastest firms.

Pros: Big UK brand, its standard tariff is the cheapest of the Big Six

Cons: Customers give it two stars for value for money, slow to answer the phone to existing customers

British Gas fuel sources

British Gas prices 

The graph above compares British Gas’s variable (also known as standard) tariff, its most expensive tariff and its cheapest fixed tariff against the cheapest fixed tariff on the market over a two-year period. 

If you were a British Gas customer on its standard tariff, until July 2017 you wouldn’t have been able to save money without switching to another supplier. This was because it offered no cheaper deals than its standard tariff. But if you switched to the cheapest tariff on the market in April 2018, you could have saved more than £300 per year. 

In April 2018, British Gas announced a 5.5% increase in its gas and electricity prices from 29 May. Dual-fuel customers on its standard variable tariff will see their bills rise by £60 on average per year. Customers on fixed tariffs are not affected during the duration of their deal.

British Gas blamed rising wholesale energy prices and policy costs for the increase.

In September 2017, British Gas increased its electricity prices by 12.5% for standard tariff customers, adding £76 on average to their dual-fuel bill over the next year. The 200,000 affected customers who received the Warm Home Discount received £76 credit.

British Gas' standard tariff will no longer be the cheapest of the Big Six suppliers, following its 2018 price rise.

Don't pay your energy company more than you should. Use Which? Switch to find a cheap gas and electricity deal.

British Gas in the news

2018

May: British Gas revealed it lost 110,000 energy accounts in the first four months of this year. This equates to around 70,000 customers since most have both a gas and electricity account.

Centrica said ‘high levels of competitive industry’ were responsible for the customer loss, though the rate had slowed.

March: New customers will not be able to switch to British Gas’ standard variable tariff (SVT) from the end of the month. British Gas said it aims for all customers to move off its standard tariff; 1m of them by the end of 2018.

February: British Gas announced that 750,000 customers switched away during 2017.

2017

November: British Gas announced plans to scrap its standard tariff for new customers by March 2018, and contact customers already on it, twice a year, with better deals. Instead of a standard tariff, it’ll offer a 12-month fixed-term default tariff with no exit fees. It also announced plans for new bundled tariffs, clearer bills and improved customer service.

It also revealed it had lost 823,000 customer accounts since announcing a price rise in June 2017, leaving it with a total of 7.9 million customers.

September: British Gas came joint-60th out of 100 in our survey of the best and worst big brands for customer service, with a customer service score of 75%.

July: British Gas paid £1.1m to domestic and small business customers to compensate them for its agents missing or being late to appointments and failing to compensate them for this. Energy regulator Ofgem requires firms to pay customers compensation if they don’t meet minimum standards, including keeping appointments.

Energy regulator Ofgem also announced an investigation into whether British Gas broke rules around switching. The probe will examine whether customers were charged exit fees incorrectly.

June: British Gas paid £9.5m in redress after energy regulator Ofgem found it broke regulations for switching, billing and complaints handling for small business customers in 2014 and 2015.

January: It agreed with Ofgem to pay out, after failing to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install advanced electricity meters for business customers.

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