30th July 2021
As its name suggests, British Gas is British owned and based. It's still the biggest energy company in the UK, and says it services nine million homes, although it has been losing customers for a while, including close to 300,000 in 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 films on Sky, days out at UK attractions, O2 show tickets, Wilbur the Penguin toys and discounts on restaurant meals and days out.
In September 2020 customers of Robin Hood Energy and Ebico were transferred to British Gas after Robin Hood Energy stopped trading.
British Gas came joint 18th out of 25 energy companies, as rated by 7,460 members of the public, in the annual Which? customer survey – the biggest independent view of energy suppliers. It was joint with prepayment-focused supplier Boost.
Customers gave it OK ratings for many aspects of its service, although they don’t consider it good value for money, but do think its customer service is better than some similarly-ranked firms.
So far it has been quite good.
I think it's probably more expensive than some providers but I trust it.
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.
Although it remains the largest energy supplier in Britain, British Gas is still 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 five suppliers to receive this rating and another three were considered worse value for money. 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 for their out-of-contract tariff, 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 £200 per year, according to our research.
British Gas offers tariffs including a 'green future' tariff (matching your electricity use with renewables, 6% or your gas use with biogas and offsetting the carbon footprint of the rest of your gas use), a tariff designed exclusively for Electric Vehicle drivers (with cheaper energy for five hours overnight to charge your car) or with boiler cover included. 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 44% of British Gas customers have been with it for five years or more. Some 18% 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' feedback gave it three stars out of five for customer service. While no firms achieved the full five stars this year, just one firm gained a lower rating for its customer service.
It's accurate at billing just as my smart meter reads.
British Gas’ highest customer rating was for the accuracy of its bills, for which it achieved a good four-star rating. Overall, 80% of its customers in our survey said they considered the accuracy of its bills 'good' or 'excellent'.
While this is close to the average across suppliers (78%), the best firms had more than 85% of customers rating their bills high for accuracy.
British Gas' customers found its bills slightly less clear than some others, resulting in a three-star rating for how easy its bills are to understand. Around half of the energy firms included in our survey scored the same.
I understand most of each bill but some of the technical terms are beyond me.
The weakest area for British Gas was value for money, according to customers in our survey. It was one of five firms to score just two stars for value for money. The top-scoring firm managed five stars. But British Gas wasn't the worst for value - three firms were rated one staron this measure.
Quite expensive compared to other providers.
British Gas' customer service is ok, but not excellent. Its three-star ratings for both customer service and complaints handling put it on a par with many other large suppliers, but lagging behind the highest-rated brands.
According to official data, British Gas received six complaints per 1,000 customers in spring last year. This is half the number received by some other big firms – such as Npower and Scottish Power – though it resolved less than 90% of them within eight weeks.
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.
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.
Pros: Has accurate bills 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.
Yes. British Gas pay-as-you-go customers can top-up at a Post Office or Payzone outlet. in January 2020, British Gas increased its minimum top-up to £5 but this is changing back to £1 again.
It's installing smart prepayment meters. Customers who have them can top-up using the British Gas website, its app or an automated payment phone line.
British Gas offers £5 emergency credit for when you run out of energy but can't top-up. Friendly emergency credit is activated automatically if you run out of credit between 6pm and 9am, on a Sunday or bank holiday. You can also activate emergency credit at other times via your smart meter, in-home display or using your key or card with a traditional meter.
Any energy you use will be recorded as debt on your meter and you'll pay it back next time you top-up.
April: British Gas will begin supplying gas and electricity to Nabuh Energy's 36,000 customers after it bought the smaller brand.
March: British Gas is paying 141,415 of its customers over £1.2m after overcharging them when they switched supplier or tariff between 2013 and 2020. It was one of 18 energy firms found by regulator Ofgem to have failed to uphold these rules. Over 1 million customers were affected.
Affected customers will receive £8.97 each, on average, reimbursing them and paying some compensation.
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.
Some customers may not have had electricity or gas supply during cold weather as a result and they 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.
December: Breeze Energy customers were transferred to British Gas after it 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.
April: British Gas and Sainsbury's ended their partnership, which begun in 2011.