Record number of British energy customers switched supplier in 2018 - data

FILE PHOTO: A gas hob

LONDON (Reuters) - A record number of British energy customers switched supplier last year, with one in five customers making a change, data from industry group Energy UK showed on Monday.

Britain’ big six energy companies have been losing customers over the past few years, under pressure from smaller, nimbler rivals often offering cheaper deals.

The data did not reveal which companies gained or lost customers, but showed 30 percent of switches were to small or mid-tier firms.

A record 5.9 million customers changed supplier in 2018, up from 5.5 million in 2017, the data showed.

A price cap on energy prices by regulator Ofgem has come into force this year, which some suppliers have warned could stifle competition and lead to reduced switching rates.

“My hope remains that, with the recent introduction of the price cap, we don’t see this element of competition undermined and switching levels fall,” Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade said.

Consumer groups say the best way for people to ensure they are paying the lowest possible price is still to shop around for a deal.

Britain's big six energy suppliers are Centrica's  CNA.L  British Gas, SSE SSE.L, E.ON EONGn.DE, EDF Energy EDF.PA, Innogy's IGY.DE Npower and Iberdrola's IBE.MC Scottish Power.

Reporting By Susanna Twidale; Editing by Jan Harvey