Record number of UK energy users switch to small suppliers

LONDON (Reuters) - A record number of British energy users have switched from large to independent electricity and gas suppliers, Britain’s energy lobby group said on Wednesday, showing that smaller providers are continuing grow retail market share.

The country’s big six energy suppliers, EDF Energy, Centrica’s British Gas, SSE, Scottish Power, RWE npower and E.ON, have seen customer numbers decline in recent years as smaller companies such as First Utility, Good Energy and Ovo Energy are able to offer cheaper tariffs and better customer service.

Last month, a record 206,419 customers switched from larger to smaller suppliers, making up 43 percent of all supplier changes, data published by EnergyUK showed.

Britons have grown increasingly dissatisfied with poor customer service and high bills, with the Competition and Markets Authority saying in July that it had found customers had been overcharged by some 1.7 billion pounds a year.

The “big six” have seen their market share drop to 84.6 percent in the dual-fuel market, compared with 99 percent four years ago, according to data from consultancy Cornwall Energy.

Independent supplier Good Energy, for example, reported a 44 percent rise in 2015 customer numbers last month.

The total number of users switching suppliers in March, 476,528 customers, was the highest since November 2013, EnergyUK said.

“The substantial number of people shopping around and switching to new suppliers is proof of an active market,” said EnergyUK chief executive Lawrence Slade.

Reporting by Karolin Schaps, editing by David Evans