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10 November 2020

Utilita

Utilita specialises in pay-as-you-go (PAYG) prepayment smart meters and claims it’s the ‘smart energy expert’. Is Utilita the right supplier for you?
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SI
Sarah Ingrams

Utilita says it gives customers ‘total control’ over their energy, and has been installing smart prepayment meters for more than 10 years. Now, 90% of its customers have smart meters.

Thanks to its smart-metering technology, Utilita’s customers can top up online, by mobile app and text, as well as over the phone or at a PayPoint outlet.

Set up in 2003, Utilita now has around 780,000 customers, many of which the company says have joined it through word of mouth. Utilita claims to offer a ‘simple tariff’ and ‘fair prices’ for its smart energy products.

It has opened ‘energy hubs’ in Portsmouth and Southampton where customers can top up, get energy efficiency advice and help from staff, face to face. It plans to open others in Edinburgh and the Isle of Wight in early 2020.

Utilita Extra offers customers competitions and prize draws to win vouchers and tickets to events.

Utilita recently launched Utilita Mobile which offers Sim-only, pay-as-you-go deals.

In September 2019, it took on Eversmart Energy's 29,000 customers after the smaller firm stopped trading. Find out what happens now for Eversmart Energy's customers. Utilita also acquired failed supplier Our Power's 31,000 customers in January 2019.

Tempted by Utilita? Find out if you could save money by comparing gas and electricity deals with Which? Switch – our independent energy comparison site.

Utilita customer score

Utilita came joint 20th out of 35 energy companies rated by 7,355 members of the public in the annual Which? customer survey. It was joint with rival prepayment specialist Boost and Robin Hood Energy.

Customers were most satisfied with its customer service and accuracy of bills and charges, which were both rated four stars out of five.

Utilita score breakdown

The graphic below shows the breakdown of its score from our latest survey.

Find out how Utilita compares with other energy companies – see the full results of the best and worst energy companies.

Which? verdict on Utilita

Only the top-scoring energy company achieved a higher star rating for customer service than Utilita, showing that customers generally think well of both its online and telephone support.

Customers’ feedback also gave Utilita a four-star rating for how it handles complaints.

This tallies at odds with data from the energy regulator Ofgem though, which shows that Utilita only resolved a quarter or less of complaints within two days in the first half of last year. The best companies in our survey managed to solve more than 90% of the complaints they received in the same time period.

Plus, between April and June 2019, Utilita had one of the highest numbers of complaints per 1,000 customers of companies included in our survey, and solved just 13% of them in two days. After eight weeks still only 60% were sorted.

Feedback from customers in our survey about Utilita’s complaints handling were mixed.

Utilita also achieved four stars for the accuracy of its bills. Since most customers pay in advance for their gas and electricity, this indicates that they feel that what they use matches what they pay for.

All other aspects of Utilita’s service received ‘fair’ ratings from customers: value for money, how clear bills are and digital tools.

The MyUtilita app lets customers see their balance, bills, payment history, submit meter readings and change their details. Customers with smart meters can also apply for Power Up – a top-up when you’ve run out of credit.

Value for money also received a ‘fair’ rating from customers in our survey.

Utilita has different tariffs depending on whether or not you have a smart meter. Its tariffs have two unit rates, rather than a unit rate and standing charge like many tariffs from other suppliers. You pay a higher unit rate for the first few kilowatt hours of energy used per day, then a lower one thereafter.

In our snapshot investigation into energy companies' customer waiting times in September 2020, a human picked up the phone after an average of 4 minutes 31 seconds, which was better than the median average of all 31 providers we called (5 minutes 57 seconds).

While last year Utilita's live chat wasn't available on 11 of the 12 occasions we tried, this year it was only not available twice. And the query was responded to in 2 minutes 29 seconds, on average.

Pros: Customer service, accurate bills and complaints handling are good, according to customers

Cons: Ofgem data shows a high number of complaints

Utilita electricity sources

Don't put up with high bills and poor customer service. Use Which? Switch to find the cheapest gas and electricity.

Utilita in the news

2020

October: Utilita overcharged almost 40,000 customers, energy regulator Ofgem revealed.

Affected customers have been refunded and Utilita will pay an extra £500,000 in redress. All overcharged customers will get £10 as a goodwill payment, rising to £15 if you're on the Priority Services Register. 900 customers who applied unsuccessfully to Utilita's Warm Home Discount fund will receive £140.

Utilita reported itself to Ofgem when it found that it had overcharged prepayment customers last year. Overall, customers paid more than £120,000 on top of what they should have, according to the energy price cap. 

Energy suppliers must not charge prepayment customers more than the price cap permits. Ofgem found that Utilita had overcharged some customers between July 2018 and September 2019. 

2019

September: Utilita took on 29,000 customers from Eversmart Energy after the smaller firm stopped trading.

July: Utilita customers may have missed out on £30,000 of savings on energy bills because the firm failed to meet its carbon emission reduction obligations, Ofgem announced.

Utilita didn't meet its targets to reduce carbon emissions for vulnerable households in rural areas and to insulate homes with solid walls between 2015 and 2018. It had to pay £175,000 into a redress fund and give the regulator more frequent updates in future.

Utilita said it over-delivered against some obligations and under-delivered against others.

January: Utilita took on 31,000 customers from Our Power after the smaller supplier stopped trading. It promised to improve customer service standards.

2018

September: Energy regulator Ofgem examined how Utilita and three other energy companies deal with customer complaints.

March: Utilita used its smart-meter data to identify around 25,000 households which had self-disconnected during the cold weather. It automatically gave them £16 interest-fee credit, which they could pay back over several months.

February: Utilita told customers it would increase prices from 1 April, adding £41 a year to the average customer's bill.

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