Providing gas and electricity to about 12 million households in the UK, British Gas is unquestionably the UK’s largest energy provider. With a long history of providing energy to British homes, the company has transformed beyond all recognition since its beginnings in the early nineteenth century. Nowadays, what does British Gas have to offer in the increasingly competitive world of supplying energy?
About British Gas
British Gas is without question the UK’s biggest energy supplier, but how did it get there and where did it all begin? Read on to discover the long history of British Gas all the way from 1812 up to 2019.
Although British Gas was founded in 1986 as a public limited company (plc), its roots date back about 200 years, making it one of the world’s oldest energy companies. The timeline below illustratess just some of the important events in the long and eventful history of British Gas.
1812 - The Gas Light & Coke Company (GLCC), the first public utilities company in the world, is set up.
1947 - The British coal industry is nationalised.
1948 - The gas industry is nationalised, therefore dividing the nation’s gas activity into 12 regional gas boards. This ends the GLCC.
1968 - The Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI) is formed.
1972 - The gas council is discontinued and replaced with the British Gas Corporation.
1986 - The gas industry is privatised by the Thatcher government, forming British Gas plc. The ‘Tell Sid’ campaign is launched to promote investment in British Gas.
1994 - British Gas re-structured.
1997 - British Gas separated into two different companies, ‘Centrica plc’ and ‘British Gas plc’.
1998 - British Gas begins selling electricity to customers.
2014 - Ofgem rules that British Gas is to pay £1million in compensation to people who had been mis-sold British Gas energy tariffs.
2016 - British Gas loses 224,000 customers in just three months.
2018 - British Gas loses 100,000 customers in five months.
2. Present day
Today, British Gas continues to be the sole supply brand for the Centrica conglomerate, allowing a comprehensive energy network through a family of unique companies. Instantly identifiable by their distinctive British Gas vans, their intelligent branding and marketing has made the company one of the most-recognised household names of the last 20 years.
Interestingly, British Gas also collaborated with Sainsbury’s to provide white label energy tariffs and leverage the supermarket’s brand recognition. This partnership came to a close in February of this year (2019).
British Gas is still the largest supplier in the UK, but recent years have taken a toll on the energy giant. Smaller competitors with lower prices, higher wholesale costs and the recent national price cap set up by Ofgem have each cut heavily into British Gas’ bottom line.
In 2018 British Gas earned an impressive £3.054 billion in revenue, but that whopping number actually represents a £442 million loss since 2013.
Even so, British Gas still has a comfortable majority of the UK energy market. The latest statistics, from the end of 2018, showed that it had a 29% share of the domestic gas market and 19% of the electricity market. Eon is the nearest competitor for gas customers and has a market share of only 11%. It’s a similar story in the electricity sector, whereas SSE trails British Gas with a market share of 13%.
3. Shares and finance
British Gas is 100% owned by the conglomerate Centrica, which also owns, wholly or partially, another 14 subsidiaries. In their latest annual report they recorded revenue of £29.7 billion for that year.
Even with rising energy costs Centrica has announced an adjusted operating profit of £1.39 billion. For those not in the know, adjusted operating profit is a profit estimate that is adjusted to try and factor out costs or expenses that are unlikely to reoccur, to give a better estimate of a company’s future.
Centrica generates the large majority, if not all, of their own energy supply, which makes profit margins much higher. Due to Centrica’s ownership of eight generation subsidiaries, purchasing energy from the wholesale market does not make a great deal of sense. Through these subsidiaries, they also make a substantial profit in generation by selling their excess energy to other supply companies.
British Gas share prices
Recently, British Gas’ parent company Centrica announced that Ofgem’s price cap would reduce profits in 2019, which led to its share price plummeting to its lowest point since 1999.
The below table represents Centrica’s opening share price on the first trading day of each April since 2007, based on data released from Centrica itself and confirmed by the London Stock Exchange.
Last Updated: April 2019
The latest dip comes after months of losses as more and more British Gas customers have switched to smaller suppliers and two of their nuclear power stations have been taken offline. While Centrica may recover in the months and years to come, overall their shares are on a dismal trend.
4. British Gas in the news
British Gas frequently makes headlines but often for all the wrong reasons. Going back more than twenty years to the famous Cedric the pig incident, where trade union activists used a farm animal in their campaign to protest against inflated salary rises for British Gas bosses, the company has continued to court controversy, albeit unintentionally.
In the spring of 2019 there was worrying news for British Gas shareholders as warmer weather and lower wholesale gas prices looked to be adding up to a considerable fall in profits for its parent company, Centrica. In the meantime, Centrica shareholders agreed to award a whopping 44% pay rise to the company’s chief executive, despite British Gas losing customers at an alarming rate.
5. Fuel mix
Although British Gas isn’t part of the increasing number of energy suppliers offering 100% renewable electricity, they have historically had a high percentage of renewable fuel sources, especially compared to the other Big Six energy providers.
While still having a greener mix than the UK average, as more and more smaller suppliers offer 100% renewable energy, that gap is shrinking. British Gas sports 43% renewables, compared to the national average of 29%. They also use a slightly smaller proportion of natural gas and coal than the national average, but the difference is minimal.
While British Gas’ fuel mix is one of the company’s strengths, as the market gets greener and greener, their marginally above average fuel mix is less and less of a draw. Environmentally-minded households have no shortage of 100% renewable energy tariffs to choose from, with better service and lower prices to boot.
British Gas services and activities
There’s a lot more to British Gas than simply supplying energy to UK households. From boiler services to unblocking your drains, it seems that British Gas is on hand for any eventuality. The company even has a loyalty scheme and a charitable string to its bow - read on to find out more.
1. British Gas HomeCare
In addition to their electricity and gas tariffs, British Gas also offers a variety of HomeCare products to keep your heating and home electrics in good working order. These annual insurance policies range from basic boiler repairs all the way to fixing home electrical and wiring problems.
There are four levels of HomeCare cover, each of which includes an annual boiler service and unlimited engineer callouts. The coverage is billed as a separate service from energy supplies.
2. Boiler cover
One of British Gas’s HomeCare services is boiler cover. If you don’t have a boiler insurance policy you should consider one for the following reasons:
- Save money if you need boiler repair
- Home insurance may not cover all boiler problems
- Landlords are legally obliged to ensure boilers and other heating elements are regularly serviced
While the British Gas boiler cover options may be more appealing than their home energy tariffs, they don’t quite manage to claim the title as our favourite. We recommend looking into 24/7 Home Rescue, which combines expert service with low prices. You can click the link below to get all the info on boiler cover options.
3. Home insurance
British Gas home insurance is yet another string to the energy giant’s bow. Protect the fabric of your rental property with buildings cover if you’re a landlord, choose contents insurance only if you live in a rented house or flat, or take out both buildings and contents insurance if you’re an owner-occupier.
From time to time British Gas offers discounts on home insurance to customers taking out a new policy who already receive their energy from British Gas. Keep an eye on the British Gas home insurance home page for the current offers.
At the moment, British Gas home insurance is not available for second homes or holiday homes.
British Gas Rewards is the company’s way of saying thank you to customers for sticking with them through thick and thin. Any British Gas energy customer is eligible to join the scheme (apart from business energy customers, sorry!).
Rewards is a relatively new programme, having been in operation for only two years, so it’s probably a bit early to tell if it’s going to be a lasting success or not. To be part of the scheme you need to have an online British Gas account and sign up for paperless billing. There are no points to collect, you simply register and wait for the vouchers and discounts to arrive in your email inbox.
The longer you are a British Gas customer, the more special offers and discounts you can enjoy. For example, one of the offers is a certain number of days of free energy per year, based on the number of years you have been a customer. Other benefits of the Rewards scheme include restaurant vouchers, discounts on family days out and entries into prize draws.
5. Energy Trust
The Energy Trust is where British Gas shows its softer side, proving it doesn’t always have to be all about the profit margins and satisfying the shareholders.
Through the Energy Trust, British Gas awards grants to help people who are struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a British Gas customer, you can still apply to the Energy Trust to help get you out of arrears on bills. Whether the debt is owed to British Gas or to other suppliers isn’t important; you just have to meet certain conditions to be eligible.
6. Warm home discount
If British Gas is your current home energy provider, you may benefit from the Warm Home Discount. This is a scheme designed to reduce energy bills for households in fuel poverty. It is only active from October to March, when colder weather pushes up fuel costs.
British Gas offers the scheme to people on low incomes who meet certain eligibility criteria, for instance people receiving unemployment benefits. If that’s you, you can apply every year to receive the Warm Home Discount via British Gas. People who receive Guaranteed Pension Credit are automatically eligible for the Warm Home Discount.
Read our guide to British Gas Warm Home Discount to find out how to apply.
If you currently benefit from the Warm Home Discount, make sure you’re not missing out on potential savings. Smaller competitors may not offer the scheme, but you could still end up paying less with cheaper tariff rates, without having to jump through hoops!
7. Smart homes
British Gas brings you right up to date with its range of smart home technology products. In conjunction with Hive products, British Gas offers solutions to help you control your central heating and electrical appliances from your smartphone. A smart home is more energy efficient, cheaper to run and kinder to the environment.
With smart technology you can control your central heating and lights from your phone and even turn off plugged-in appliances remotely. To make your home more secure you can install smart cameras and motion sensors. When no-one’s home you’ll get notifications on your phone if the sensors pick up on movement in the house. You will also be able to experience the joy of having the lights automatically switch off when you leave a room.
To transform your house into a British Gas smart home all you need is a broadband connection, a smartphone and the Hive Welcome Home Plan, priced at £99 per year for British Gas customers, or £129 for everyone else. You get a Hive Hub, which is like the control centre of your smart home; it plugs into your broadband router and makes it possible for your phone to communicate with your appliances. Plus you get a motion sensor, two smart dimmable lightbulbs and a smart plug.
8. Smart Meters
Like many other countries across Europe, Great Britain is currently undergoing, a national rollout of smart meters. While the government had hoped for every household to have a smart meter by 2020, this has been shifted to a soft target due to unexpected delays in the rollout process.
British Gas does offer smart meters, although they’re not yet available in some regions. You can log in to your British Gas account to apply for a smart meter. If smart meters are not yet available in your area, you’ll be notified by British Gas once that changes.
Smart meters can make monitoring and paying energy bills faster and easier. They have the following advantages compared to standard meters:
- Monitor energy use in nearly real time
- Eliminate the need for estimated bills
- Allow customers to see, and change, energy-wasting habits
- Compatibility with smart grid technology and some solar panels
9. Feed in Tariffs
If you’re a current or potential British Gas customer hoping to apply to receive Feed-in Tariff rates, we have disappointing news. While British Gas has offered Feed-in, or FiT, to customers in the past, the entire scheme has been scrapped for new applicants as of April 2019.
FiT began in 2010 and was designed to promote small-scale renewable energy production. Homes that generated their own electricity from renewables like solar panels would receive money for each kilowatt hour generated, with additional money given for excess electricity that was added to the national grid.
The scheme was extremely successful, so much so that demand has outstripped the funds available as far more households have participated than previously expected. Because of the high costs, Ofgem ultimately decided to end the programme.
Are you already receiving FiT benefits? If you are, don’t panic. Although new applicants will not be considered, existing FiT contracts will be honoured for the length of the original agreements.
British Gas tariffs and prices
For new customers, British Gas offers up to four tariffs at any one time. On their website, you’ll see an enormous list of tariffs but these are not open for new signups.
Energy tariffs are made up of two elements, the standing charge and the unit rate. The standing charge is the daily rate that energy providers charge simply for giving you access to energy. The unit rate, measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), is how much you pay per unit of energy used.
What types of tariffs are available?
What are all the tariff options and what's the difference between them all? Fixed tariffs and variable tariffs are the ones you see most often from energy providers and British Gas is no different. Many providers now offer eco tariffs, where the energy comes from renewable sources.
Economy 7 and prepayment tariffs work slightly differently from the standard fixed or variable tariffs and are more suitable for specific types of households.
1. Fixed tariffs
Fixed rate tariffs strike a balance between peace of mind and your wallet. Unless you have nothing better to do than pore over reams of energy bills, it’s best to stick with a fixed rate tariff. Fixed tariffs, such as the British Gas 'HomeEnergy Fix’ tariff, use a unit rate from a static date that does not change.
The downside of a fixed tariff is that if the wholesale price of energy falls dramatically, you end up paying more than you would have if you were on a variable tariff. Overall, you need to weigh up the advantage of knowing exactly how much you’re going to be paying against the possible risk of paying over the odds in the event of decreasing wholesale costs.
2. Variable tariffs
Variable tariffs fluctuate with the volatility of the wholesale energy market. This could allow potential savings if wholesale energy goes down in price, although it is more likely to result in much higher bills if the wholesale price goes up, as it has done frequently in the past.
Additionally, with Brexit looming on the energy industry, it is likely that rates will increase significantly in the months to come.
Do variable rate tariffs save you money? Unless you’re an eagle-eyed energy buff who is ready to switch to another company at a moment’s notice, the short answer is no.
‘Standard variable tariff’ is what you will revert to when your fixed rate tariff comes to an end. At the moment new customers cannot choose to be on the standard variable tariff.
British Gas also has a tracker tariff, which is essentially a variable tariff since it follows the standard variable tariffs of seven other suppliers. Every three months, the price of this tariff is reviewed and it can go either up or down.
Since energy providers change their tariffs constantly, it's extremely difficult to keep up with prices. The best way to get an accurate quotation is to give us a call on 01704 325069.
Based on Selectra research, we’ve found that the average 3 bedroom, 3 person flat in London could save more than £450 if they switch providers!
3. Eco tariffs
British Gas has several tariffs with the word ‘green’ in the name, which certainly suggests some kind of environmentally friendly element. On closer inspection, however, British Gas has a long way to go to match the green credentials of smaller energy providers such as Bulb, Octopus or Tonik Energy.
Throughout 2018 and up until April 2019, the British Gas green tariffs included a commitment by British Gas to double offset the carbon emissions created by the gas used in households. Since 1st April 2019 this has changed to a less ambitious promise simply to offset your carbon footprint.
The way British Gas offsets your carbon footprint is by putting money towards projects that cut carbon dioxide emissions. In return, British Gas receives Certified Emission Reduction Certificates to demonstrate how they have fulfilled their carbon footprint obligations.
4. Economy 7 tariffs
Economy 7 is the generic name for tariffs with an off-peak overnight rate for electricity. The name comes from the seven hour period where electricity is cheaper, usually from 12.30am to 7.30am. British Gas generally offers one economy 7 tariff to new customers.
The advantage of this kind of tariff is that if your lifestyle allows you to use most of your electricity at night, there are significant savings to be had. People who have electric cars might also be interested in an economy 7 tariff because you can make the most of the off-peak rate to charge your vehicle overnight.
5. Prepayment tariffs
For customers who want to pay for their energy before they use it, prepayment tariffs are the answer. Sometimes the standing charge is slightly higher than on other tariffs and other times the unit rate might be slightly higher than on other tariffs. Overall, prepayment tariffs tend to work out a little bit more expensive.
British Gas offers one prepayment tariff for new customers. The advantage of a pay as you go (PAYG) tariff is having more control over your energy bills, especially for people who find it difficult to budget for a monthly or quarterly bill. There is also the option of using emergency credit on your prepayment meter, for when you’ve run out of money - but it really should only be used as a last resort!
6. Business tariffs
British Gas offers business energy tariffs and, in contrast to their domestic energy offerings, these are up there with the most competitive on the market. At present they only offer one single rate for gas and one for electricity.
The rates, fees and services offered to businesses depend on the amount of energy used per year. If a firm spends £100,000 they are considered a large business in the UK. British Gas offers bespoke services for their large business customers and guarantees a 24 hour response time to any query, no matter the time of day or season.
They also further separate their large business customers into those that spend over one million pounds per year and those that spend less. For these major accounts, British Gas provides a Customer Manager and Customer Executive to act as a single point of contact for your business.
While the British Gas business prices are impressive, there’s a strong chance there could be a better deal out there for your business. The best way to be sure you’re getting the best business tariff is by giving us a call on 01704 325069.
Still not sure about your British Gas tariff? We have even more information on our British Gas tariffs page.
How do British Gas prices compare to the market average?
We took the UK Government’s energy price cap to be a useful indicator of the market average, since it represents what the average household would pay for energy on a dual fuel tariff priced at the maximum unit price.
With the energy price cap currently at £1254 per year, the standard British Gas tariff comes out at £60 more expensive. This might not sound like a big difference, but when you compare it to other providers whose standard tariffs work out to be at least £200 less than the energy price cap, you can see that British Gas is not the place to go for the cheapest deal on your energy.
How can I contact British Gas?
There are many ways to contact British Gas depending on what you want to contact them about. Whether it’s to discuss renewing your energy tariff, taking out boiler cover or querying something on your bill, British Gas has a different phone number for everything.
On this page you’ll find the most common ways to contact British Gas. If you need to discuss more specific queries check our detailed guide to contacting British Gas to help you get through to the right person.
If you’re not a British Gas customer
The British Gas energy quote website is first port of call for most people considering becoming a British Gas energy customer. Alternatively, you can phone them on the number below:
Join British Gas
Please check with your provider if you don't know how much a call will cost.
0333 202 9505
*Monday to Friday: 8am-8pm, Saturday: 8am-6pm, Sunday: closed
If you’re an existing British Gas customer
British Gas customers are encouraged to manage their energy accounts online. From your account you can see all your bills, submit meter readings, book a boiler service and put in a request to switch tariffs.
If you’d rather speak to someone in person about your British Gas account, call the number below:
British Gas account enquiries
Please check with your provider if you don't know how much a call will cost.
0333 202 9802
*Monday to Friday: 8am-8pm; Saturday: 8am-6pm; Sunday: 10am-4pm
If you’re inseparable from your smartphone, you’ll be happy to hear that British Gas has its own app, which works on iPhones and Android phones. With 3.5/5 stars on the Apple Store and 4/5 stars on the Google Play Store, the app has been well received by customers, especially compared to other supplier apps.
Once you’ve downloaded the app you can do the following, all without any calls or emails:
- Track your smart meters energy usage in nearly real time
- Set and monitor an energy-spend target
- Book a British Gas utility service
- Pay bills and monitor your account balance
You can submit a meter reading to British Gas online. You can find more information on British Gas' specific meter reading procedure on the company's website. There you’ll find links and information on the following:
- Register and submit your first meter reading
- Submit a meter reading without registering
- Download the smartphone app
- Get more information on how to read GB gas and electricity meters
Is this your first time taking a meter reading? It’s fast and easy, but if you’ve never done it before it can seem a bit confusing. With our meter reading guide you’ll get the lowdown on how to get the magic numbers and keep your energy bills as accurate as possible - no muss, no fuss.
If you’re moving
Ready for the big move? One of the most important steps is making sure your new home is properly set up with gas and electricity. If you’re moving into or out of a British Gas supplied home, be sure to let them know via the link below.
No matter who is currently providing your energy, moving can seem intimidating. You’ll need to set up new contracts, find information on your new city and possibly set up a new gas or electricity connection. But don’t worry, we have all the info you need to make your move easy.
British Gas login
Are you a new or existing British Gas customer? If you’re looking to access your online account, just click the link below and type in the email that corresponds to your British Gas account, followed by the password. If you’ve forgotten your contact info, you can click on the “Forgotten your email?” button.
If you’re a new British Gas customer, you can use the same link below to set up a new account. Just start out by typing in your email address and follow the instructions that follow.
Once you are logged into the online portal with your username and password, you will be able to do the following:
- Manage your energy bills
- See past usage details to gain insight into your energy usage habits
- Submit meter readings to get more accurate billing
- Book a free smart meter installation
British Gas reviews and verdict
With its long history of providing energy to British households, how does British Gas really measure up in today’s competitive market? We’ve done some digging and come to some interesting conclusions.
British Gas reviews
British Gas reviews make for interesting reading. While some customers praise individual members of staff who work on the phone lines or who carry out boiler repairs and services, in general there is a higher than average level of discontent with British Gas service standards.
Customers are unhappy about the high price of British Gas tariffs, particularly when a fixed deal comes to an end and they suddenly have to start paying more. This is also a common problem for customers who want to renew their HomeCare cover. Nevertheless, there are some areas where British Gas fares better than its Big Six competitors - find out more on our British Gas reviews page.
Here’s our summary of what British Gas has going for it:
|The pros||The cons|
|Easy to use app||High tariff prices|
|Better than average fuel mix||Poor customer service|
|Warm Home Discount offered||Poor financials|
All things considered, we give British Gas a rating of 2/5. This score is based on price, customer reviews, fuel mix and extra features such as a quality smartphone app.
We know British Gas has recently hit a rut, with customers leaving at higher rates than ever and their share price crashing as a result. Looking at British Gas’ high prices and poorly rated customer service, it’s not hard to see why customers are so keen to leave.
There’s simply better service available at far lower prices by switching to an independent energy supplier.
Even for customers sticking with British Gas solely to receive the Warm Home Discount or to avoid cancellation fees, any money they may lose would be more than made up for by energy savings from switching energy provider. We recommend Octopus or Tonik Energy, who are both known for great service, competitive prices and 100% renewable electricity tariffs.