Big Six reviews
By Sarah Ingrams
Article 6 of 6
SSE (previously known as Scottish and Southern Energy) is the UK’s second-largest energy supplier, and the largest generator from renewable sources.
SSE is a UK company, based in Scotland. SSE began in 1947 as the Southern Electricity Board before becoming known as Southern Electric.
The brands Scottish Hydro, Swalec, Atlantic and Airtricity are all part of SSE, following mergers over the past 20 years.
The company is the UK’s largest energy generator from renewable sources. It operates hydropower, onshore and offshore wind and biomass electricity generation plants across the UK.
It also offers home phone and broadband contracts, and boiler cover. SSE Reward gives customers access to offers and presale tickets at SSE venues.
SSE planned to merge with Npower to create a new independent energy company. But the merger was called off in December 2018, after it had been given the provisional go-ahead in August by the Competition and Markets Authority.
SSE was also the supply partner for M&S Energy for nine years, until the partnership ended in September 2018. Find out about the future of M&S Energy.
Can you save money with SSE? See how its prices compare with your current deal – use Which? Switch to compare gas and electricity prices.
SSE customer scoreSSE came joint 24th out of 31 energy companies, rated by 8,761 members of the public, in the annual Which? customer survey. It shares its position with Sainsbury's Energy.
‘Although I often get estimated bills, SSE always corrects it if I give a reading. I like to be in credit as it usually automatically gives me a refund if I go too much in credit (a nice surprise in my bank account!).’
SSE score breakdown
The graphic below shows the breakdown of SSE’s score from our latest survey.
Besides our customer satisfaction survey, we investigate how long it takes suppliers to pick up the phone in customer services and whether you can get a good energy deal. Scroll down to find out how SSE compares with its rivals.
Find out how SSE compares with other energy companies – see the full results of the best and worst energy companies.
Which? verdict on SSE
SSE has plenty of room for improvement: its customers gave it three stars out of five for all aspects in our survey – including bills, complaints handling and value for money. But customers were slightly more positive about its phone customer service.
'They have always been there to speak to and get the answers within a few minutes, and I find they do know what they are talking about.’
SSE customer service
SSE customers are a bit more satisfied with its customer service than other Big Six firms.
‘I spent a long time on the phone. They never get back to you, so you have to call again to chase previous complaints.’
SSE gets low levels of complaints per 1,000 customers, compared with other big energy firms, as revealed by its data for the first half of 2017. It resolves just over three quarters of them on the same or next working day, too.
That’s despite SSE taking 9min 56sec on average to answer our calls to its customer services in our snapshot investigation into energy companies’ customer waiting times.
It wasn’t the slowest company (Spark Energy took more than 27 minutes on average to pick up the phone in customer services), but still a lengthy wait compared to the fastest firm's 10-second average answer time.
Although customers overall aren’t enthusiastic about SSE representing value for money, its standard tariff is the second-cheapest of the Big Six suppliers.
This doesn’t make that tariff good value for money; you can usually save a few hundred pounds by switching (scroll down for more about SSE’s prices).
‘SSE isn't the cheapest, but it's fairly competitive – it hugely increased electricity prices, but so did many others.'
SSE promised to stop rolling customers onto its standard tariff automatically at the end of their fixed deals, although it didn’t set a date for this.
Pros: Gets fewer complaints than some other big suppliers
Cons: SSE was slow to answer the phone to customers, in our call-waiting investigation
SSE fuel mix
SSE energy prices
The graph above shows how SSE’s variable (also known as standard) tariff, its priciest tariff and its cheapest tariff compared with the cheapest tariff on the market over a two-year period.
If you were a SSE customer and on its variable tariff, you would have been paying a lot less if you’d switched to a cheaper energy deal.
SSE was the last of the Big Six energy companies to announce an increase to its customers’ bills in 2018. But its price rise is also the biggest, adding £76 per year on average to customers’ bills.
Around 2.36m customers on SSE’s standard variable tariff will be affected by the 6.7% increase in dual-fuel prices from 11 July. SSE will also scrap its paperless billing discount – worth £12 per year for dual-fuel customers – from the same date.
SSE previously increased its prices by 6.9% in April 2017, adding £72 on average in a year to the bills of the 2.8 million customers on its standard tariff. SSE blamed the increasing cost of supplying electricity for the price rise.Don’t pay your energy firm more than you should. Use Which? Switch to find the cheapest gas and electricity.
SSE in the news
December: Npower and SSE's merger plan was scrapped. SSE said that the deal was 'not now in the best interests of customers, employees or shareholders'.
SSE said that business performance, clarity on the level of the default tariff price cap and changing conditions in the energy market would have meant the new company faced very challenging market conditions.
Other options for SSE Energy Services will be considered instead, including a standalone demerger, sale or an alternative transaction.
August: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that SSE and Npower’s merger ‘does not raise competition concerns’ and provisionally cleared the deal.
Alistair Phillips-Davies SSE chief executive said SSE is ‘confident that the formation and listing of the new company is on track for completion by the end of SSE’s financial year’ (March 2019).
July: SSE shareholders voted in favour of merging its retail business with Npower’s. Richard Gillingwater SSE chairman said the new supplier will ‘combine the resources and experience of two established players with the focus and agility of an independent supplier’.
Earlier in the month it was announced that SSE will cease to be the supply partner of M&S Energy in September. The two companies have been in business together for nine years.
June: SSE paid £190,000 compensation to former Ebico customers after their switch was delayed.
When it withdrew its ‘white label’ partnership and tariff with Ebico, SSE took almost six months, rather than the expected 49 days, to switch customers onto a new deal.
Some customers missed out on savings because of the delayed switch. SSE also compensated customers who ended up paying more.
Earlier in June, SSE had to pay £1m for sending 1.15m prepayment meter customers inaccurate and misleading annual statements between June 2014 and September 2015.
They showed incorrect information on cheaper tariffs and annual savings estimates if customers switched owing to an IT error. Some statements overestimated savings from moving from a prepayment meter to a standard meter.
Ofgem said: ‘SSE failed to act promptly to put things right’.
May: SSE and Npower’s proposed merger must undergo further investigation to determine whether it gets the go-ahead, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced. It said that the two firms hadn’t provided sufficient evidence to address its concerns that the merger would result in a ‘substantial lessening of competition’ which could see some customers’ bills increase.
January: SSE revealed it lost 40,000 customer accounts in the last three months. It said ‘complex challenges’ in the energy market are to blame. SSE now has 7.68m customer accounts across the UK and Ireland.
November: SSE and Npower announced plans to merge into a new energy supplier.
SSE said the merger will help the firms compete in a 'competitive and regulatory environment' and make savings from efficiencies. It plans to separate its household energy and services business from generation.
In the same month, energy regulator Ofgem closed its investigation into SSE’s conduct when switching customers to prepayment meters. It found that SSE didn’t take some customers through the right processes before installing a prepayment meter in 2014 and 2015, meaning that some ended up paying more and others weren’t given the chance to pay bills via Fuel Direct.
October: SSE said it will stop automatically rolling customers onto standard tariffs when their fixed deal ends from early next financial year. Instead, it will move customers onto an equivalent or cheapest fixed tariff.
September: SSE came 90th out of 100 in a Which? survey of best and worst big brands for customer service, with a customer service score of 70%.