You can barely turn on the TV or open a newspaper these days without hearing complaints about the Big Six energy suppliers.
Between them British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish & Southern and Scottish Power supply something like 99 per cent of the gas and electricity used by British households.
So it’s no surprise that endlessly increasing prices – which have doubled the average cost of gas and electricity over the past six years, from about £600 to £1,250 – have created a hostile climate towards these giants.
Add to that claims about confusing tariffs and useless customer service and you have a situation which is leaving huge numbers of people thoroughly fed up.
But complaining can only get you so far, and the results of the latest Which? magazine consumer satisfaction survey point to one possible way forward for unhappy consumers.
The huge household names all languish at the foot of the independent consumer watchdog’s league table, which measures value for money, customer service, accuracy and clarity of bills and the amount they help you save energy.
But coming out on top are five smaller companies who have been quietly building reputations for themselves by trying to be as straightforward, consistent and green as possible.
These smaller companies can rarely claim to be the very cheapest in the market because of cut-price online fixed deals offered by the Big Six, but not widely taken up.
So they have taken advantage of this by offering one simple rate that is cheaper than the standard offerings of most of the Big Six.
They also claim to deliver better customer service and a more ethical approach which puts people before profits.
Streetwise has taken a look at each of the top five in the survey to give you an idea of what’s on offer.
Founded in 1998, Ebico today remains the only not-for-profit energy supplier in the UK.
It also operates the UK’s only single-rate gas and electricity tariffs with one flat rate and no standing charge, so its 50,000 customers only pay for what they use.
And that means you won’t pay more if you have a PAYG meter, or less if you pay by direct debit. So low income households, who are more likely to use key or card meters, aren’t penalised.
· Ovo Energy
A relatively new energy company, Ovo joined the market in September 2009.
It claims to offer simple, easy to understand tariffs with a strong commitment to customer service.
This supplier says it is committed to providing great value, customers not paying a premium to be green, protection from price hikes and hassle-free payments.
It also sends all bills by email as standard, though paper bills are also available.
Founded in 1996 Ecotricity can genuinely claim to have been ahead of the curve as far as green energy goes.
It now has more than 50,000 gas and electricity customers and is the only electricity company building new renewable energy sources, in the form of wind turbines.
In 2011, the amount of green energy in Ecotricity’s fuel mix was 41 per cent, compared with a UK average of 6.6 per cent.
It is recommended by the Soil Association, the Cooperative Bank and WWF-UK.
· The Utility Warehouse
With more than 233,000 customers, The Utility Warehouse is owned and operated by Telecom Plus PLC.
It doesn’t advertise and works like a discount club that offers a wide range of utilities services (such as home phone, internet, etc) on one monthly bill as well as customer offers such as a cashback card.
Instead of spending money on ad campaigns, Utility Warehouse relies on personal recommendation from satisfied customers.
Members can earn a monthly discount off their bill by referring a friend.
· Good Energy
This firm is the only UK supplier which sources all its electricity from renewables, as it has done for more than 10 years.
That means no fossil fuels, no nuclear and no carbon. The only electricity tariff it offers to domestic customers is certified renewable.
It has more than 26,000 customers, topped the Which? magazine customer satisfaction chart, and 1,700 of its customers are shareholders.
· For more information about prices or how to switch, visit which.co.uk/switch/energy-suppliers.