What is the “big 6” and who are they?
Whether you’re choosing what restaurant to dine at, which barber to cut your hair at, or what clothes to buy – reputation and customer satisfaction are two of the biggest deciding factors. So why should your energy supplier be any different?
As of September 2019, there were 61 active suppliers in the domestic gas and electricity sector providing energy to multiple households in the UK. However, some of these suppliers have built a solid reputation and customer base, dominating the market in the process.
These are known as the ‘Big Six’ Energy Providers – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE.
These six energy companies lead the UK energy market with a combined market share of 70%, as per recent Ofgem data.
|Big Six Energy Providers||Share of Energy Market|
Data provided by Ofgem, and correct as of Q3 2019
The UK’s original gas supplier, British Gas is now a subsidiary of Centrica PLC (known as Scottish Gas in Scotland and Nwy Prydain in Wales). It provides 15 million homes in the U.K. with gas, and 6 million more with electricity, and is headquartered in Berkshire
According to data provided by Ofgem, British Gas accounts for about 19% of the market share as of September 2019. It is the largest energy supplier in the country.
|Energy||Home Services||Smart Home|
|Gas and electricity||Boiler and Heating Services||Smart Meters|
|Home moving services||Plumbing and Drain Services||Smart Lighting|
|Electric Vehicle Tariff||Appliances and Electrical Services||Sensors|
|Warm Home discount||Home Improvement Services||Plugs|
According to a recent survey by Which? with British Gas customers, here is the verdict on British Gas as an energy supplier –
Pros and Cons of British Gas
- Complaints handling is managed relatively smoothly – customers rated it high for dealing with complaints.
- Bill accuracy and clarity are above average.
- Sometimes offers cheaper fixed deals.
- Offers renewable energy tariffs designed exclusively for drivers of Electric Vehicles
- Poor value for money, especially when compared to smaller energy suppliers.
- Out-of-contract variable tariffs are on the higher side – often in line with the maximum permitted by the Ofgem price cap.
- Long waiting time when trying to contact customer service.
EDF Energy is the UK subsidiary of a French state-owned energy company called Electricite de France, which also acquired the nuclear generator British Energy. EDF is the biggest producer of low carbon energy, supplying around 5.6 million homes in the UK. Around 70% of EDF’s energy supply comes from nuclear energy.
EDF Energy has an 11% share in the domestic energy market as of September 2019.
Here is a brief list of domestic energy services offered by EDF. It also provides solutions for business energy.
|Boiler Services||Energy Efficiency||Electric Cars||Smart Homes|
|Boiler Replacement||ECO Scheme||Car Leasing||Smart Home Products|
|Boiler Insurance||Insulation Advice||Charging Advice||Smart Meter|
|Emergency Insurance||Smart Export Guarantee||Government Grants||Smart Thermostats|
Pros And Cons Of EDF Energy
- EDF’s customer service touchpoints such as its website live chat and phone line are quick to respond to customer queries.
- One of the best providers for low-carbon, environmentally responsible energy supply.
- Was ranked the easiest of the Big Six suppliers to switch to in the recent Uswitch Energy Awards (2020).
- Low value for money – out of contract tariffs are among the highest in the market.
- A relatively higher number of complaints have been reported, as per public complaints data.
E.ON Energy, once known as Powergem, is a well-known business and domestic energy supplier. It supplies energy to around 5 million homes. This company is well known for leading innovation towards new technology that harnesses renewable energy, focusing on efficient energy usage.
The share for E.ON stands at 12% of the total market. Along with SSE, it has the second largest chunk of the domestic energy market in the UK.
|Domestic Services||Business Services|
|Gas and Electricity Services||Gas and electricity|
|Heating Services – boilers, wall insulation, etc.||Renewable energy solutions|
|Solar Panels||Building and energy management|
|Smart home equipment and services||Networks and infrastructure|
|Electric vehicle charging|
Pros And Cons of E.ON
- High customer rating for bill accuracy.
- Majority of reported complaints resolved within eight weeks.
- Offers a variety of tariffs including an online-only tariff, a tariff for e-vehicle owners, dual fuel tariffs, etc.
- Slow to respond to complaints on digital and telephone channels.
- It does not show the tariffs online and neither can you ask for a quote through the portal
In addition to providing electricity to almost 7 million customers, Npower also operates coal, oil, and gas power stations. The majority of Npower is now owned by E.ON, though they remain separate entities. NPower is also a supply partner of Sainsbury’s Energy.
The market share of Npower, standing at 7%, is the smallest out the Big Six Companies. Being a relatively new entrant to the Big Six and the UK energy market, it has the least number of consumers in the market, but is growing fast.
|Smart Meters||Gas and Electricity||Home Services|
|Smart Meter Installation||Electricity Services||Boiler Tips|
|Smart Meter Troubleshooting||Gas Services||Insulation|
|Business energy supply|
Pros and Cons of Npower
- Complaint handling is at par with the other Big Six providers.
- Products and customer service, need a lot of improvement ; reportedly difficult to get to customer service agents through live chat and telephone channels.
- Low value for money when compared to smaller energy suppliers.
It is one of the longest running energy groups in the UK, and supplies over 5 million gas and electricity customers across the country. Scottish Power is one of the leading providers of renewable energy, having closed its gas and coal plants down in recent years, and is already the Big Six in terms of generating wind energy.
Scottish Power holds a 9% share of the total domestic market for UK energy supply.
|Gas and Electricity||Products||Business energy|
|Home Moving Services||Smart technology||Small business energy|
|Boiler care||Boiler Care||Commercial energy|
|Plumbing, drain, electrics||New connections|
|Electric vehicle charging|
Pros And Cons Of Scottish Power
- Complaint handling has a reputation of being fair in most cases.
- Live chat is quick to respond to queries.
- Offers various types of tariffs, including some with donation options for Cancer Research UK, online-only tariffs, and tariffs for owners of e-Vehicles.
- Lowest ranked of the Big Six providers in terms of bill accuracy and customer service.
- Long waiting time for phone calls.
Scottish and Southern Energy is the second largest supplier in the UK, its customers having been bought over by Ovo energy. A conglomeration of many different companies specializing in hydro power and electric power, it supplies electricity and gas to almost 8 million homes across the country.
SSE has a 12% market share of the total domestic energy market, a relatively large slice as compared to the other Big Six. It is also one of the best and most trusted energy providers in the UK.
|Dual fuel tariffs|
|Pay as you go meters|
|Boilers and heating|
|Repairs and servicing|
Pros and Cons of SSE
- Ranks as one of the highest among the Big Six in terms of customer service and complaint handling.
- Digital channels have been consistently ranked as easy to use and quick to respond.
- Smart meters from SSE are known to be highly accurate.
- They offer an energy switch guarantee of 21 days when you choose to switch to them.
- Easy to understand and accurate billing.
- High number of complaints relative to other providers.
- Low value for money
As the energy market continues to grow, several new suppliers have entered the game, who while lacking in the scale of the Big Six, still have a great variety of deals and tariffs to offer at competitive rates. When considering switching suppliers, it is wise to keep them in consideration as well.
However, in spite of criticisms against the Big Six energy suppliers, you might surprisingly still get the best deal for your energy supply from one of them, depending on your location.
It is best to decide upon an energy supplier after running a detailed comparison of the various tariffs and offers available. The quickest and fastest way to do this is by using our handy energy comparison tool to get an instant summary of all the best deals available to you. No matter what your reasons are for switching providers, we’ll find you the most updated and comprehensive list of tariffs in a matter of minutes, hopefully making your choice that much easier!