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10 November 2020

British Gas

British Gas is the UK’s largest domestic energy provider, supplying around a third of homes in Great Britain with gas. But is it any good?
British gas big six 480402
Sarah Ingrams

As its name suggests, British Gas is both British owned and based. It's still the biggest energy company, although it has been losing customers for a while, including more than 100,000 in autumn 2019.

It's a subsidiary of Centrica, a multinational energy and services company, which also owns utility suppliers in the Republic of Ireland and North America.

It's known as Scottish Gas in Scotland and claims to be ‘bringing Britain the smooth-running homes of today and tomorrow’. As well as gas and electricity, it also sells boilers, smart home products from the Hive brand and HomeCare insurance.

Its British Gas Rewards scheme gives customers personalised offers, which can include boiler services, Hive heating or lighting products, free energy days, and discounts at Waitrose & Partners and on Sky entertainment. 

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 27th out of 35 energy companies, as rated by 7,355 members of the public, in the annual Which? customer survey – the biggest independent view of energy suppliers. It was joint with rival EDF Energy.

Customers gave it OK ratings for many aspects of its service, although they don’t consider it good value for money, or rate its customer service or bills as well as rival energy companies.

British Gas score breakdown 

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

Scroll down to read our full verdict on British Gas, plus how its electricity fuel mix compares with the average across the country.

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 it's the largest energy supplier in Britain, British Gas is neither the best loved nor the cheapest. Customers continue to leave it in their thousands, suggesting they’re looking for better service or prices elsewhere.

Customers consider it poor value for money – although it was among seven suppliers to receive this rating. It does sometimes offer cheaper fixed deals, but its out-of-contract variable tariff has consistently been in line with the maximum permitted by Ofgem’s price cap. Most of the biggest suppliers charge the same, however.

Switching away from a tariff at the level of the price cap to one of the cheaper deals available can consistently save a household using a medium amount of gas and electricity £300 per year, according to our research.

British Gas offers tariffs including 100% renewable electricity and designed exclusively for Electric Vehicle drivers (with cheaper energy for five hours overnight to charge your car). Some of its tariffs have exit fees of £30 per fuel if you want to leave before the end of the fixed term.

Some British Gas customers have stuck with it since privatisation. Our survey found that 41% of British Gas customers have been with it for five years or more. Some 14% of the British Gas customers in our survey said they had been with it for more than 20 years.

But loyalty doesn’t equate to high satisfaction levels and British Gas customers rated it an average three stars out of five for customer service. The best firms achieved five stars, while rivals Npower and Scottish Power’s customer feedback resulted in a poor rating for their customer service.

British Gas’ highest customer rating was for how it handles complaints, for which it achieved a good four-star rating. Overall, 70% of its customers in our survey said it was 'good' or 'excellent' at dealing with complaints.

While this is in line with the average across suppliers (69%), the best firms had more than 80% of customers saying that how they resolved complaints was excellent.

According to official data, British Gas received 14 or 15 complaints per 1,000 customers in the first half of last year. This is half the number received by rival Eon – although it resolved only about half of them within two days, whereas Eon managed to resolve closer to three quarters.

British Gas has installed the most smart meters of any supplier, and the most second-generation models. It has an app which lets customers send meter readings, pay bills, set budgets and book repair appointments. It also owns Hive and sells its smart thermostats, smart plugs, smart light bulbs and smart locks.

Yet customers’ feedback only gave British Gas an average three-star rating out of five for its digital tools.

Our snapshot investigation into energy companies' customer waiting times in September and October 2020 found it took 23 minutes 32 seconds, on average, to get through to a human in British Gas’s customer services. 

This was the second longest median average wait time across 31 firms we called. The average time across all firms was just under 6 minutes, with several answering in less than 2 minutes.

When we tested British Gas’s live chat, it took 10 minutes 47 seconds on average to respond to us, making it the third-slowest firm included to respond. The average wait time for the 18 firms with live chat that we contacted was just over 3 minutes.

Pros: Handles complaints well according to customers.

Cons: Rated poor value for money by customers, one of the slowest to respond by phone and on live chat in our investigation.

British Gas electricity sources

British Gas in the news

September: British Gas has acquired Robin Hood Energy and all the energy companies on its network, including Ebico. Customers with these energy companies will be switched to British Gas and the company has assured customers that they will match their current tariffs.

August: British Gas paid out £1.48m to around 270,000 prepayment customers for failing to tell them when it changed their top-up provider on 1 January 2020, energy regulator Ofgem announced.

Customers may have wasted journeys to shops where they could no longer top-up their meter. Some may not have had electricity or gas supply during cold weather as a result.

Plus, customers couldn’t phone British Gas on 1 January as its general enquiries line was closed.

British Gas told most of its customers in December 2019 that it was changing its top-up provider from Paypoint to Payzone, and increasing the minimum top-up from £1 to £5. But some customers weren’t told until late January 2020.

Ofgem said that none of these customers were given enough time to switch supplier if they didn’t like the new arrangements.

British Gas will also pay £250,000 into the energy redress fund to help customers in vulnerable circumstances.

December: Breeze Energy customers will be transferred to British Gas after the larger supplier was chosen to take on customers of the smaller failed supplier.

November: British Gas revealed that it lost 107,000 accounts in the past four months. While this sounds high, it said that the rate of customers switching away was ‘significantly lower’ than the same time last year.

May: British Gas announced that 183,000 households had switched away from it in the first three months of 2019. It said the price increase in the cap on variable and default tariffs had led to a spike in customers switching in March and April.

The price cap has cost it £70 million so far this year, it said.

April: British Gas raised prices for the four million customers on its standard or default tariffs from 1 April. It announced the rise days after Ofgem revealed it would increase the price cap in place on default tariffs.

Affected customers will pay 10% more a year (equating to £119 for households that use a medium amount of energy).

If you top up a prepayment meter, your bills will rise by 9%, or £107 a year.

British Gas and Sainsbury's partnership ended in April.

A Centrica spokesperson said: 'We have enjoyed a successful partnership with Sainsbury's since 2011. We will be writing to Sainsbury's Energy customers to reassure them that they will continue to be supplied by British Gas under the same terms and conditions, and will now be able to join the British Gas Rewards loyalty programme.'

November: British Gas lost 372,000 customer accounts between July and October.

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

April: British Gas announced a 5.5% increase in its gas and electricity prices from 29 May, adding £60 per year to the average standard tariff customer's bill.

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