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British Gas is the worst firm to be moved to if your energy firm goes bust, MSE survey of 12,000 people shows

British Gas is the worst firm to be moved to if your energy firm goes bust

Over two million households have been switched to a new energy supplier they didn't choose in the past year after their previous provider went bust. But very few caught by this 'safety net' – especially those moved to British Gas – reported having a good transfer experience, with many left waiting months for credit refunds as well as being "left in the dark" about the transfer process. 

According to a major new investigative survey of over 12,000 respondents by MoneySavingExpert.com, customers transferred to British Gas were least happy of all those moved to a 'supplier of last resort' by the energy regulator Ofgem after their own provider had gone into administration. But EDF and Shell Energy also performed poorly.

We'll be reporting our detailed findings to Ofgem. If you're currently struggling to pay for your energy, see our Energy bills help guide for the support you could get.

The survey results in a nutshell – three key insights

1. Most transfers have been poor

Only two firms – E.on Next and Octopus – got positive overall feedback, while those switched to British Gas, Shell Energy and EDF all fared much worse.

2. Many have waited MONTHS to get their credit back

At least 20% of those moved to a new firm in September and October last year reported they still hadn't got their credit balance back more than three months later. That figure rose to nine in 10 among customers moved from PFP Energy or People's Energy to British Gas, who had been waiting more than four months at the time of the survey.

3. Energy firms have often been hard to contact

At least half of those contacting British Gas, EDF and Shell Energy by phone, email or live chat (for any reason) said they had NOT found it easy to do so.

Martin: 'Energy firms must do better'

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "Over the past six months, the challenge to the energy industry, due to huge spikes in wholesale costs, is unprecedented. Dozens of providers have collapsed, far beyond anything the Ofgem 'safety net' was designed to cope with, leaving the remaining firms struggling to pick up the pieces.

"Yet times are tougher still for those failed firms' customers. Millions have been moved to new firms they didn't choose, and with the collapse of cheap switchers' deals, they've had little choice but to stay there – often left confused and frustrated by an opaque and inflexible process.

"Missing credit balances, billing delays and poor communication would be bad enough in isolation – but in the midst of the explosion in consumer energy prices, we mustn't underestimate the impact of these errors on people's financial and emotional wellbeing, many of whom are already feeling scared and vulnerable.

"Yet it's clear that some firms have handled these transfers much better than others – the differences in feedback between the best and worst performing providers are stark.

"Of course, some of the problems may well be down to the data infrastructure the fallen firm left behind. Yet the consistency in poor feedback for British Gas, Shell Energy and EDF, regardless of which firm's customers they were taking over, suggests it isn't just that.

"These providers must up their game, and Ofgem must do more to ensure those caught by its safety net don't end up trapped in it."

The three key findings – in tables and charts…

1. Most transfers have been poor

Just two firms – E.on Next and Octopus Energy – got positive overall feedback, with British Gas, Shell Energy and EDF all faring much worse.

Energy firms ranked worst to best for overall transfer experience

Supplier of last resort & bust firms whose customers it took on (1) (2) Net experience score (number of survey responses) 'Great' 'OK' 'Poor'

 

Bluegreen Energy | MoneyPlus Energy | Neon Reef | People's Energy | PFP Energy | Simplicity Energy | Social Energy | Together Energy | Zebra Power

-56 

(3,087)
2% 40% 58%



Colorado Energy | Daligas | Goto | Green | Pure Planet

-32 

(2,595)
9% 49% 41%

 

Green Network Energy Utility Point | Zog Energy

-29 

(1,236)
11% 50% 40%


Entice Energy | Orbit Energy

-19 

(74)
11% 59% 30%


Enstroga | Hub Energy | Igloo Energy | Symbio Energy
10 

(1,139)
30% 49% 21%

 

Avro Energy

17 

(3,662)
40% 36% 23%

Percentages may not hit 100 due to rounding. (1) Firms with more than 50,000 customers are in bold. (2) Yü Energy and Utilita are also suppliers of last resort but are not included as they got fewer than five responses each.

  • How major transfers compare on feedback

    We also looked at big transfers – those involving more than 50,000 customers – individually to see if the differences in feedback could be explained based on the collapsed firm, but the pattern remained similar.

    Transfer
    (date of move)
    Net experience score
    (number of survey responses)
    Avro Energy to Octopus Energy
    (26 September 2021)
    17
    (3,662)
    Igloo Energy to E.on Next
    (3 October 2021)
    12
    (864)
    Orbit Energy to Scottish Power
    (1 December 2021)
    -15
    (67)
    Green to Shell Energy
    (27 September 2021)
    -26
    (1,148)
    Utility Point to EDF
    (18 September 2021)
    -27
    (807)
    Together Energy to British Gas
    (24 January 2022)
    -29
    (397)
    Green Network Energy to EDF
    (31 January 2021)
    -33
    (357)
    Pure Planet to Shell Energy
    (17 October 2021)
    -36
    (1,307)
    People's Energy to British Gas
    (19 September 2021)
    -58
    (1,732)
    PFP Energy to British Gas
    (11 September 2021)
    -71
    (688)

    Table covers transfers involving more than 50,000 customers.    

The MSE survey (which is a self-selecting group of respondents, not a statistically random sample of the UK public) ran between 25 January 2022 and 1 February 2022 and received 12,373 individual responses.

2. Many have waited MONTHS to get their credit back

At least 20% of those moved to a new firm in September and October last year reported they still hadn't got their credit balance back more than three months later; that figure rose to nine in 10 among customers moved from PFP Energy or People's Energy to British Gas, who had been waiting more than four months at the time of the survey.

Firm-by-firm credit balance refund waiting times

Transfer Date of transfer Percentage waiting (1)

Over six months' wait

Green Network Energy to EDF 31 January 2021 12%

Four months' wait

PFP Energy to British Gas 11 September 2021 93%
People's Energy to British Gas 19 September 2021 93%
Utility Point to EDF 18 September 2021 67%
Green to Shell Energy 27 September 2021 24%
Avro Energy to Octopus Energy 26 September 2021 22%

Three months' wait

Pure Planet to Shell Energy 17 October 2021 58%
Igloo Energy to E.on Next 3 October 2021 20%

One month's wait

Orbit Energy to Scottish Power 1 December 2021 85%

Less than a month's wait

Together Energy / Bristol Energy to British Gas 24 January 2022 92%

Table covers transfers involving more than 50,000 customers. (1) At the time of the survey, of those who had a credit balance with their previous firm when it went bust.

3. Energy firms have often been hard to contact

At least half of those contacting British Gas, EDF and Shell Energy by phone, email or live chat (for any reason) said they had NOT found it easy to do so.

Energy firms rated hardest to contact

Firm and rank Percentage who found it easy to contact (1)
1. British Gas 34%
2. EDF 49%
3. Shell Energy 50%
4. Scottish Power 60%
5. E.on Next 70%
6. Octopus Energy 80%

(1) Of those who had contacted the firm.

'A disaster all round': British Gas customers vent their frustration as transfer problems mount

Most of the responses relating to British Gas came from former PFP Energy and People's Energy customers – and they reported the worst issues. Here's a selection of complaints from survey respondents on the move to British Gas:

One former PFP Energy customer said... "Left in the dark. Anonymous letters sent to us despite giving details online. No tariff details given to us. No repayment of credit from PFP or British Gas. Gas was transferred but not electricity despite being dual fuel with PFP."

A former People's Energy customer said... "It's been a disaster all round really. First I had contact from British Gas back in September and October to say all was in hand and I didn't need to do anything yet. Then nothing until the beginning of January, to say my bill was overdue... It's all very confusing and exhausting to be honest. Both suppliers have fallen woefully short of good or even normal service."

Another former PFP Energy customer said... "This has been a total nightmare, I have written to the administrators for PFP, and British Gas and Ofgem, all of whom have been unhelpful and I still do not have an account set up with British Gas – appalling!"

British Gas took over PFP Energy's 82,000 domestic energy accounts on 11 September 2021 and People's Energy's 350,000 accounts on 19 September 2021 – over four months prior to the start of our survey. But the transition has been rough, as the figures below make clear.

People's Energy and PFP Energy transfers to British Gas compared

TABLE_CELL_STYLE People's Energy to British Gas PFP Energy to British Gas Average for big transfers (1)
Net experience score -58 -71 -27
% who said new firm kept them updated throughout transfer process 48% 39% 65%
% who found it easy to contact new firm by phone, email or live chat (2) 34% 30% 50%
% who have had final bill from old supplier 56% 11% 49%
% who have had correct amount of credit back 4% 3% 33%
% still waiting for ANY credit to be moved across or refunded (3) 93% 93% 57%

(1) Those involving more than 50,000 customers. (2) Of those who had contacted the firm. (3) At the time of the survey, of those who had a credit balance with their previous firm when it went bust.

Many EDF and Shell Energy customers were also hit by transfer delays and other issues

British Gas was not the only supplier to get poor feedback from customers, with many of those moved to EDF and Shell Energy also reporting problems.

EDF took on Green Network Energy (GNE) customers at the start of 2021, before the current energy crisis, and MSE has already covered the transfer delays GNE customers faced. But this new data shows that, for some, the process was still dragging on a year later.

Major EDF and Shell Energy transfers compared

Transfer
(date of move)
Net experience score % who found it easy to contact new firm by phone, email or live chat (1) % who have had correct amount of credit back % still waiting for ANY credit to be moved across or refunded (2)
Green to Shell Energy
(27 September 2021)
-26 56% 59% 24%
Utility Point to EDF
(18 September 2021)
-27 46% 21% 67%
Green Network Energy to EDF
(31 January 2021)
-33 54% 61% 12%
Pure Planet to Shell Energy
(17 October 2021)
-36 43% 32% 58%

Table covers transfers involving more than 50,000 customers. (1) Of those who had contacted the firm. (2) At the time of the survey, of those who had a credit balance with their previous firm when it went bust.

And it's not just these firms – the survey reveals issues across the board when it comes to billing and credit balances, even among the transfers rated positively by customers. For example:

  • At least one in five bill-payers moved to a new firm in September and October 2021 said they were still waiting for their credit at the time of the survey – more than three months after being moved over to the new firm.

  • More than a quarter were still waiting for final bills long after the six-week 'guaranteed standard', which applies when switching supplier in the usual way (though Ofgem says this doesn't apply to transfers under its process when suppliers go bust).

How to complain about a transfer

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to speed up the transfer process or the return of your credit balance.

But if there's been a long delay or you're unhappy with how the new supplier has handled your account, you can submit a formal complaint (though again, there's no guarantee this will speed things up). Here's how:

  • First raise a formal complaint. You can find each supplier's complaints process at the following links: British Gas, EDF, E.on Next, Octopus Energy, Scottish PowerShell Energy. Alternatively, you can try the free Resolver tool.

  • If necessary, go to the ombudsman. As a last resort, if you've already tried contacting the firm and it's been more than eight weeks since you lodged your formal complaint (or you've received a deadlock letter), you can then take it to the Energy Ombudsman, an independent body that handles disputes between consumers and energy firms.

    You can raise a complaint for free by filling in this online form. Just make sure you select the new supplier as the supplier you want to complain about and not your previous firm.

What does Ofgem say?

We asked energy industry regulator Ofgem what it was doing to ensure that accounts are transferred smoothly and that customers get their credit balances back quickly.

It told us it was "engaging with each supplier of last resort" and "monitoring their progress" in a number of areas including communication with customers, issuing bills and refunding credit balances, with the aim of improving suppliers' performance.

An Ofgem spokesperson added: "Ofgem acknowledges that any delay in recovering credit balances can be frustrating. Many of these delays relate to data not being passed on by administrators to suppliers of last resort so they can generate accurate account balances for their new customers.

"We have been working with suppliers and administrators to resolve these issues and we expect most refunds of credit balances which have been affected by this issue to be completed soon."

What do the energy suppliers say?

A British Gas spokesperson said: "In the last six months we've stepped in to take over the energy supply of over 700,000 customers from eight different failed suppliers. Unfortunately, each of these suppliers also has its own process in terms of how they share data.

"But the majority of credit balances have now either been applied or will be shortly, and we have been in touch with individual customers where there has been a delay."

A Shell Energy spokesperson said: "Shell Energy has taken over the accounts of half a million customers from five failed energy suppliers. Almost all customers who joined us are fully set up as Shell Energy customers, but we recognise that for some this has been a frustrating journey and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused."

An EDF spokesperson said: "In 2021 Ofgem appointed EDF to protect over 600,000 customers. We do understand customers' frustrations when going through the supplier of last resort process. We continue to offer support to customers in need."

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