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1 October 2020

SSE

SSE has long been one of the UK’s largest energy suppliers, as well as a renewable generator. But is it the right gas and electricity firm for you, especially now that customers are owned and supplied by Ovo?
Sse big six 480406
SI
Sarah Ingrams

SSE is based in Scotland where it began in 1947 as the Southern Electricity Board before becoming known as Southern Electric.

It merged with Scottish Hydro 20 years ago and, since then, Swalec, Atlantic and Airtricity have all become part of SSE.

Now its customers have been bought by Ovo Energy. This means that around five million households are supplied by Ovo Energy, making it the second-biggest energy company after British Gas.

Ovo has the rights to use the SSE brand so, for the moment, the SSE brand and products still exist and customers won’t see any immediate changes.

SSE also sells home phone and broadband contracts, and boiler cover. SSE Reward gives customers access to offers and presale tickets at SSE venues. These still exist now Ovo has bought its customers.

Find out the latest on Ovo buying SSE’s customers.

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 score

SSE came joint 24th out of 35 energy companies, rated by 7,355 members of the public, in the annual Which? customer survey. 

SSE score breakdown

The graphic below shows the breakdown of SSE’s score from our latest survey. The results date from before Ovo bought its customers. Take a look at Ovo’s results to see what might be in store for SSE customers, now they’re part of Ovo.

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 ranks joint-highest of the traditional, big companies - but only just. It shares its position with Eon, while British Gas and EDF Energy rank jointly one place lower. Scottish Power is in joint 33rd, with Npower ranked in between at position 30.

SSE still has plenty of room for improvement though, when compared with smaller suppliers and Ovo Energy, which bought its customers.

SSE's customers were most positive about its customer service and how it deals with complaints, for both of which it achieved four star (‘good’) ratings.

SSE customers are a bit more satisfied with its customer service than other longstanding firms (the original Big Six). It was the only one among them to achieve four stars, as did its new owner Ovo Energy. However the top-scoring firm overall, Octopus, managed to achieve the coveted five-star rating.

Its solid ratings for customer service are despite SSE taking 6mins 22secs on average to answer our calls to its customer services. 

In our snapshot investigation into energy companies’ customer waiting times, SSE's pick-up time was slower than the average of the companies we called (4mins 24secs). That said, eight firms of the 36 included took longer than 10 minutes to answer the phone on average.

On live chat, SSE was in line with the average across firms we contacted, taking 2mins 40secs to reply.

Complaints handling is SSE’s other strongest score, besides customer service. Although rivals Eon, British Gas and EDF Energy scored the same, one firm achieved just two stars for its poor complaints resolution.

According to official complaints data, SSE received a higher than average number of complaints per 1,000 customers in the first half of last year when compared with other firms in our survey.

However, it also managed to resolve 80% of more of them within two days – one of the best records of suppliers we looked at.

SSE was rated average for both the accuracy and ease of understanding its bills. While the best firms achieved five-star accuracy, five firms rated ‘poor’ for the accuracy of their bills.

Overall, customers aren't enthusiastic about SSE representing value for money, though no energy firm included was rated ‘excellent' for this.

It offers a range of fixed-term tariffs, including one bundled with smart home products and another designed for electric vehicle drivers (giving up to 8,000 miles of free electricity if you charge your car in ‘off-peak’ hours).

Pros: Solves most complaints quickly

Cons: SSE was fairly slow to answer the phone to customers in our call-waiting investigation

SSE electricity sources

Don’t pay your energy firm more than you should. Use Which? Switch to find the cheapest gas and electricity

SSE in the news

August: Ogfem fined SSE £2.06 million for not fulfilling its obligation to publish inside information about its wholesale energy generation. This is believed to have had an impact on wholesale energy prices.

August: SSE Energy Services failed to meet its smart meter installation target in 2019, energy regulator Ofgem revealed.

The biggest energy suppliers, including SSE, set their own goals for how many smart meters they will install in homes and small businesses each year. Ofgem checks whether they achieve this.

Ovo bought SSE Energy Services in early 2020, so it will pay £1.2m to compensate for SSE’s failure.

January: Ovo announced that it had bought SSE’s customers, including for gas and electricity, broadband, home phone and boiler and heating cover.

You won’t see any changes for the moment and all SSE products and services are still available and unchanged.

December: Ovo’s purchase of SSE’s energy and services business got the go-ahead from the Competition and Markets Authority and will take place in January 2020.

Until it happens, SSE customers will see no changes to their prices or service. Ovo said ‘you’ll be kept in the loop every step of the way’ once the transaction has finished.

September: SSE announced that it is selling its household energy and related services business to Ovo, including telecoms customers and other home services. This includes customers of SSE’s brands including Atlantic, Scottish Hydro, Southern Electric and Swalec.

April: SSE had to to pay £700,000 after missing its gas smart meter installation target for 2018.

February: SSE paid out £705,000 after reporting its feed-in tariff payments incorrectly to energy regulator Ofgem.

It overstated the generation payments it had made and so received £4.07m more than it was entitled to. SSE reported its error to Ofgem, which it said was due to ‘an administrative error’.

In the same month, SSE was the last of the Big Six energy firms to confirm it would raise prices when the level of the price cap on standard and default tariffs is increased on 1 April.

More than two million customers saw their bills increase by around £117 a year (based on a medium user) to the maximum amount permitted under the cap.

Pay-as-you-go customers also saw bills increase.

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. 

August: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally cleared the deal.

July: SSE shareholders voted in favour of merging its retail business with Npower’s.

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.

On 11 July, around 2.36 million customers on SSE’s standard variable tariff were affected by the 6.7% increase in dual-fuel prices. SSE also scrapped its paperless billing discount – worth £12 a year for dual-fuel customers.

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. This meant that some customers missed out on savings.

Earlier in June, SSE paid £1m for sending 1.15 million prepayment-meter customers inaccurate and misleading annual statements between June 2014 and September 2015.

May: SSE and Npower’s proposed merger was referred for further investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

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 7.68 million customer accounts across the UK and Ireland.