6 min read

Why smaller could be better when it comes to energy suppliers

Frankie Jones
6 December 2018

Small to medium sized suppliers are steadily taking a bigger slice of the energy pie, yet 90% of us still stick with the Big Six suppliers. While they might be considered the most reputable and trusted pillars of the industry, their power over the people is waning because of the fierce competition put up by newer, smaller suppliers. There’s even talk of them becoming the Big Four. And there’s a good reason for this: smaller energy suppliers tend to be considerably cheaper.

Here, we’ll explain how these providers differ from their larger counterparts and how you could benefit from switching this winter (hint: it’s not just about saving money).

Reasons to switch

They’re just as trustworthy and reliable

Let’s get this one out of the way first. One of the biggest concerns that prevents people from switching is that independent suppliers won’t be as trustworthy as the Big Six, or that they might be cut off if there’s a problem with a small provider. In fact, 44% of people surveyed by uSwitch in 2013 said they’d never consider moving to a smaller supplier out of fear and lack of trust. But this kind of thinking could be stopping you from bagging a great deal, so we’re here to set the record straight.

All suppliers, no matter what their size, are regulated by Ofgem. This means they are subject to the same rules and procedures as the Big Six. And if they happen to go bust, Ofgem will move you straight to the default supplier for your region, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck without electricity. And although the new supplier doesn’t have to honour your previous tariff, your credit balance will be protected. If you want to be sure you’re switching to a provider that’s in it for the long run, there are some basic checks you can do to protect yourself.

Save money (and the planet)

Staying with your current supplier for years might show how loyal you are, but it also means you’re probably not getting the best and latest deal. But sadly there are no prizes for loyalty in the energy industry - in fact, you’re more likely to be rewarded with an overpriced tariff. You could save up to £452 by switching, so it’s worth considering.

The savings you could make come down to the fact that small to medium suppliers tend to offer cheaper energy. One of the reasons for this is that these providers are exempt from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO); this is something the government allowed in order to increase competition in the energy market. This means the smaller companies make savings, which, along with fewer overheads than more established providers, means they can offer very low rates to entice you in.

Additionally, switching to smaller suppliers often goes in hand in with going green when it comes to energy. ‘Green’ energy is taken from renewable sources, which produces a smaller carbon footprint (great for the planet). Taking an eco-friendly stance is a key selling point for a lot of the newer providers in the market; some of the best rated suppliers, like Bulb and Ovo Energy, offer green energy. And not only is renewable energy cheaper than ever before (luckily for you), but the more people who opt for renewable tariffs, the more other suppliers will have to go green in order to compete. So really, it’s a win-win.

Get 5* customer service

While cost might be your primary consideration when choosing an energy supplier, customer service ratings are worth looking at, too.

You might have seen that Monzo swiped the Which? award for best bank customer service. But it’s not only the smaller, newer banks turning customer support traditions on their head. Some of the best rated energy suppliers for service are the little known ones, like So Energy and Octopus Energy. In fact, small providers took the top three spots in Citizens Advice’s list comparing the customer service delivered by the energy market. The increasing popularity of online chat functions, which gives you the option to get help on the spot, puts providers like Bulb at the top of the list for customer support.

It probably won’t be a surprise that the Big Six performed poorly in Which?’s customer service survey. And when you think about it, it’s not hard to see why. The bigger the company, the more customers it has, and the less time it has to dedicate to each person. Whereas SSE, one of the Big Six, has over 7 million customers, independent suppliers generally have around 250,000 customers. A company’s customer service is hugely important, particularly if something goes wrong and you need to get in touch with them. So before you base your decision on price alone, think about the worst-case scenario, and the quality of support you’re likely to be offered.

Which small suppliers do we work with?

ClearScore partner with 30 small to medium energy suppliers, (through energyhelpline), which is the majority of the market. A growing market means competition is increasing all the time, so we recommend comparing energy suppliers once a year to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

If you choose to switch your energy through us, you’ll see a list of the cheapest deals in your area that are best suited to your needs. If you’re worried about being without power during the time it takes to switch, you don’t need to be! We’ll take care of the paperwork and switch your energy flow automatically, so you’re never without heating this winter. See which energy deals are up for grabs here.

by Frankie Jones

Frankie Jones is ClearScore's in-house Copywriter. 

ClearScore exists to make your finances simple.
We offer a free service where you can handle everything to do with credit in one place. In your ClearScore account, you can see your credit score and the full details of your credit report. Your credit cards, mortgages, mobile phone contracts, loans, overdrafts and utilities all on the record. Our goal is to make ClearScore as simple, calm and straightforward as possible. Money is stressful enough.