British Gas Review
Even amongst the Big Six, it doesn’t get any bigger than British Gas.
British Gas dates back to 1812 and The Gas Light and Coke Company – the world’s first public utility company.
Nowadays 11 million homes and 500,000 UK businesses get their gas and electricity from the Staines-based provider, which is owned by parent company Centrica.
British Gas, which also operates Sainsbury's Energy, is known as Scottish Gas north of Hadrian’s Wall and as Nwy Prydain in Wales.
It offers a raft of extra services including: a range of HomeCare products; one-off repairs; new boilers and heating cover.
But ‘biggest’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘best’.
So let’s take a closer look and find out if they’re the right provider for you.
Is British Gas cheap?
British Gas’s tariffs usually include hefty perks, such as a British Gas smart meter or free Smart Lights, but are unlikely to be the cheapest on the market.
British Gas pricing history
British Gas does have a history of dropping prices. An important point in our British Gas Review.
You have to go back to October 2013 for the last time it jacked up prices, when a 9.2% hike added £123 onto the average family’s annual bill.
In 2015 British Gas announced three price cuts, saving customers £72 in 2015.
In February 2016 it slashed prices by 5.1% (although it’s worth noting most suppliers did the same) and in December 2016 it announced prices on its standard tariff would be frozen until August, despite all its rivals announcing huge price hikes.
But, in truth, British Gas are very unlikely to be as cheap as the smaller suppliers.
Their variable and fixed tariffs have consistently cost between £200 and £300 more than the market’s cheapest.
This year the company has lost 400,000 residential customers, largely due to the £100s of savings on offer switching to smaller providers.
In 2014, Ofgem forced British Gas to admit its partner brand, Sainsbury’s Energy, was actually cheaper.
Free electricity from British Gas
In July 2016 British Gas rolled out a free electricity deal for its 2.4 million smart meter customers.
The new FreeTime tariffs allow customers to receive free electricity between 9am and 5pm on Saturday or Sunday.
If you’re disciplined, and can get the washing done and watch all your TV in the allotted time, this might be a good money-saving option.
But even with the predicted savings, the deal is very unlikely to be the cheapest on the market.
Read more: How to save money on your energy bills.
How green is British Gas’s energy?
Increasingly, customers care where their energy comes from.
So let’s review British Gas’s fuel mix disclosure (in brackets is the UK average).
* Coal: 2% (17).
* Natural Gas: 30% (32)
* Nuclear: 34% (24)
* Renewables: 33% (24)
* Other fuels: 1% (3)
Source: British Gas website.
British Gas sources more of its energy from renewable sources than both E.on (4.7%) and Npower (17%), but is trounced by SSE (37%).
In recent years, British Gas has reduced the percentage of its energy that comes from coal and increased the percentage sourced from renewables.
It’s worth noting British Gas is leading the push to install smart meters in UK homes.
The gadgets help households conserve energy and British Gas has already installed over a million (well before the official roll out).
So British Gas is fairly eco-friendly, then, but, if you're choosing a green energy tariff, remember it's a long way from the greenest on the market.
How do customers rate British Gas?
In a Which? survey of 9000 energy customers – the biggest of its kind – British Gas reviewed at 56%, coming 15th out of the 23 companies surveyed.
Customers awarded British Gas three stars for customer service, billing accuracy and complaint handling, and just two stars for value for money.
The overall score combines customers' overall satisfaction with how likely they are to recommend British Gas.
It is not directly linked to the star ratings.
So customers clearly feel there is room for improvement.
Is British Gas’s customer service any good?
Generally, though, British Gas’s customer service is pretty strong.
In 2014, it topped a table produced by the BBC show Rip Off Britain, who conducted an investigation into call waiting times at the Big Six.
British Gas customers had to wait an average wait of 2 minutes and 41 seconds before their call was answered.
EDF Energy (just under 3 minutes), E.ON (about 3 and a half minutes), SSE (just under 5 minutes), npower (almost 13 minutes) and Scottish Power (a shocking 53 minutes) all made customers wait longer.
Between October and December 2016, British Gas received the fewest complaints per 100,000 customers of any of the Big Six (1,555).
It resolved 51% of complaints within one working day.
A 2015 YouGov survey of 5,100 UK energy consumers gave British Gas a customer satisfaction rate of 74%, up 4.3% from the previous year.
If you're unhappy with British Gas, make a complaint on A Spokesman Said.
We're in your corner.
Switching to British Gas
Like most major suppliers, British Gas is signed up to the Energy Switching Guarantee.
If you're unsure how to switch energy supplier, this means British Gas will handle the switch for you and talk to your old supplier.
British Gas say it takes roughly two and a half weeks to switch to them.
All you need to do is get a quote, choose your tariff and apply online and then provide meter readings.
British Gas HomeCare range
British Gas may be expensive, but a company this big comes with an impressive set-up and is able to offer extra services – like it’s HomeCare products.
Customers can get competitive deals on boilers, central heating, plumbing and electrics.
But, as we pointed out in May, you should watch out for huge leaps in boiler-care prices.
If you’re thinking about getting a boiler plan, here’s everything you need to know.
British Gas online offering
Another reason you might consider paying more to be with British Gas – as opposed to a bare bones smaller supplier – is the company’s online offering.
The website is very slick and customers can use their account to book and track an engineer, submit meter readings and compare energy usage.
British Gas’s app is also worth noting.
It has a four-and-a-half-star review rating on iTunes and allows users to submit meter readings, monitor usage, pay bills and book an engineer.
A Spokesman Said’s view
* Strong customer service
* Highly-rated app
* Impressive range of additional repair services and products
* Far from the greenest supplier on the market