A new low in customer satisfaction with gas and electricity suppliers has revealed "the failings of a broken energy market", according to consumer group Which?
The watchdog's latest annual energy company survey found that the overall customer satisfaction score has dropped from 49% last year to 41%.
The score is one of the lowest recorded by Which? from all of its satisfaction surveys across a range of products and sectors.
The consumer group said the survey exposed a market "that is falling short of its customers' needs" as satisfaction plummeted and the biggest companies fared worse than the smaller suppliers.
The six largest companies, which account for more than 90% of the market, ranked bottom of the table, with Npower scoring the lowest for the third year running with 31%.
British Gas scored 39%, below SSE and Scottish Power on 41%, EDF Energy (44%) and E.On (45%).
British Gas and Npower both fell below the industry average of 41%.
Good Energy held the top spot for the third year running, sharing it with Ecotricity, with both scoring 82%.
All of the companies that appeared on the table last year scored lower, except for Ecotricity and First Utility who have risen from 80% to 82% and 50% to 58% respectively.
Latest statistics from Which? show that energy prices are the top worry for 84% of consumers, while just 20% trust suppliers to act in their best interests.
Some 60% of consumers told Which? that they are already "dreading" the cost of their winter energy bill.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Once again the biggest energy companies have been beaten by the smaller suppliers but there are no winners in a broken market that consistently fails consumers.
"Our findings highlight why it's vital that Ofgem's first annual review of competition clearly identifies why the market is failing and what needs to change.
"We want to see radical solutions to improve competition and keep prices in check, like the biggest energy companies being forced to separate wholesale generation from the retail arms of their business."
Npower's director of domestic retail business, Roger Hattam, said: "We know we've let many of our customers down following recent issues with our new billing system but it's still disappointing to see these results.
"Right now, our priority is to put right these issues. While we still have a long way to go, we are making progress. Our customers deserve to get the best service possible and this is my commitment to them."
Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said: "These figures are a damning indictment of a broken energy market that is failing to meet the needs of consumers.
"Under David Cameron people are paying more than ever for their gas and electricity, but all too often the customer service they receive is not good enough.
"That's why the next Labour government will undertake the biggest overhaul of our energy market since privatisation.
"Our plans will break up the big energy companies, put an end to their secret deals and make tariffs simpler and fairer.
"And until these reforms kick in, we will put a stop to unfair price rises by freezing energy bills until 2017, saving the average household £120."
An Energy UK spokesman said: "Major change is already under way in the energy industry and will ensure dealing well with customers is at the heart of what our members do.
"Companies put a very high value on the relationships they have with their customers and they are working hard to improve the service they provide.
"However, in any survey there will always be winners and losers with someone at the top and the bottom.
"Examples of best practice set a bench mark for all companies to meet and, where issues are highlighted, serve as a wake-up call for everyone.
"Around a million people shopped around for a new energy deal or provider in November and December proving there are good offers out there and that the market is dynamic and working well for consumers."
:: Which? surveyed 8,525 UK energy bill-paying adults in October and November.
Mortgage rates are low at the moment, but even if you feel that your mortgage is a pretty good deal already, for a lot of borrowers there are better rates to be had. It's crucial to get the sums right – high upfront admin costs from a new lender or large early repayment fees from your existing mortgage provider could wipe out any savings. But, says David Hollingworth of brokers London & Country: "If you have an average standard variable rate (SVR) of 4.75%, a borrower with a £150,000 repayment mortgage over 20 years would pay £969.34 each month. Switching to a two-year fix with Norwich & Peterborough BS at 1.99% with £295 fee, free valuation and free legal work for remortgage would cut the payment to £758.11 a month, saving £211.23p.m." Over a year, that would mean a saving of £2,240, even with a £295 up front fee, and £2535 in following years. Potential saving: £2,535
Your home and contents insurance may be costing more than it needs to. Gocompare.comdata shows that 25% of customers who provided their buildings and contents insurance renewal price saved up to almost £160 by changing to a new provider. Potential saving: £160
With today's high cost of fuel, running a car is an expensive business. For a lot of people, particularly where public transport is sparse, giving up a car altogether is too big a challenge. But perhaps you could use it less, and take steps to bring down the cost of driving when it's unavoidable. The Energy Saving Trust says that just keeping your tyres pumped up correctly can save £31 a year, and turning off the air conditioning can save £77. Follow all the advice on the Energy Saving Trust's app, such as lift sharing and keeping your speed down, and the organisation claims you could save as much as £554 a year for a medium car covering medium mileage. Potential saving: £554
If you haven't changed car insurer recently, the chances are you could save a lot of money by doing so now. According to research from Consumer Intelligence for Gocompare.com, in October 2013, 51% of consumers could save up to £242.55 by moving to a new insurance provider. There are plenty of comparison sites to try, including AOL Compare, so it really doesn't take long to find a cheaper deal. Potential saving: £243
Start by finding out whether you could get a cheaper deal from a different energy supplier. If you haven't changed in the past, you probably can. According to gocompare.com, you could save around £309 a year just by switching to a cheaper deal (based on customers who switched energy supplier for both gas and electricity (dual fuel) using the Energylinx poweredGocompare.com platforms between 1 July and 30 September 2013).
Over the long term, there are plenty of ways to bring down bills that involve a relatively large outlay up front, such as ensuring your home is properly insulated. But just cutting your current energy use can have a huge impact on your energy bills. Some of the steps you can take are just a question of habit changing, such as switching appliances off instead of leaving them on standby. The Energy Saving Trust reckons the average household could save £50 and £90 a year just by unplugging or switching off at the socket. And turning down the washing machine temperature to 30 degrees, using a washing up bowl instead of leaving the tap running and only putting as much water in the kettle as you need can save you as much as £55 a year. Draught-proofing will save another £55, and proper 270mm loft insulation could save you up to £180 a year – taking into account the cost of fitting it the savings will take a couple of years to kick in. Potential saving: £689 (far more if you take all the right steps in the home)
Or at least, make your own. If you work in a town or city, the temptation to pop in and get a coffee can be strong. There's something comforting about sipping a hot coffee from those nice warm paper cups as you gear up for the working day. But if you stop to add up what it costs (including the cup), it may leave you cold. A Starbucks medium (OK, tall) latte costs £2.60 on the Strand in London. If you have one of those five days a week, 46 weeks a year (allowing for four weeks holiday), that means you are spending close to £600 – a tall price for a caffeine fix. If you make your own, a Bodum coffee maker costs £20 and a kilo of coffee costs around £13 and will make roughly 120 – 140. Missing the cup for the walk to work? Buy a Thermos mug for around £10. For £43, plus the price of milk, you can have coffee on the go all year round. Potential saving: £557
It's a familiar scenario for many well-intentioned would-be gym bunnies. You sign up super motivated. You buy new workout gear, perhaps you work out regularly at the start. But then something – a holiday, a nasty cold, late nights at work – breaks your momentum and you stop going to the gym. Eventually your workout clothes lounge around in the cupboard while the gym keeps your bank balance trim by taking that direct debit each month. Gym memberships vary, but if you pay £80 a month for full membership, that's £960 a year's worth of good intentions. Invest in some proper running shoes – you can spend a fortune but specialist shop Run and Become has decent shoes for £50 – and hit the road. Need motivation? Download a free app such as Couch to 5k to get you started and track your progress as you get fitter. Potential saving: £910
The range of mobile tariffs can be baffling. Many people end up on the wrong deal, perhaps paying for call time or extras they don't really need or use. There are a number of online tools and apps you can use to check your bill is not too high, such as Billmonitor and Mobilife. Enter your existing details and see if you could save money. In 2012, Billmonitor reckoned 26 million consumers in Britain were paying over the odds by as much as £164. The savings you could make will vary hugely, but it's certainly worth taking a look to see what you could save.
Apps like Viber and Whats App are also worth a mention as they allow you to text and call (Viber only) other users for free who have the apps on their smartphones. Whats App has ayearly subscription fee of around 65p, but the only other cost is the data on your smartphone plan if you're using 3G.
And when it comes to your broadband and home phone, it pays to find out if you are on the best deal. Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk says: "Our own analysis has highlighted time and time again that a high proportion of customers do not actually switch broadband regularly enough to benefit from better pricing, which is crazy when you consider that switching can save you over £200 from your annual bill. Switching levels for broadband are woefully low when compared with energy or insurance services." Potential saving: £364
In the UK, households throw away an estimated 25 meals each month, worth a total of £60 a month or £720 each year. Avoid buying too much food, even when it seems like you are saving money. Try not to 'take advantage' of bulk buy deals you may not use, make good use of your freezer for fresh foods rather than putting them in the fridge and forgetting them, and change a few of your shopping and eating habits and you may save money.
Make a list and stick to it. Shopping online can help you avoid temptation, and if you do your shopping on Mysupermarket.co.uk, you could save even more. Enter your items as you would on a supermarket site, and it will find the cheapest supermarket for your needs saving on average £17 a shop, according to the site. On a weekly basis that makes £884.
Growing your own vegetables can also save money, although the set up costs can be relatively high if you are starting from scratch. But some foods are cheap and easy to grow, even if you have little space. If you are in the habit of buying bagged salad, you could easily save a significant sum by growing your own. Jane Perrone, gardening editor of the Guardian and author of The Allotment Keeper's Handbook, says: "The materials to grow your own probably cost something shy of £20 a year, for seeds and compost mainly - I usually use recycled containers." A standard bag of salad from a supermarket costs around £1, so if you would usually buy one bag a week, you would spend around £52 a year. Potential saving: £1,636
A Sky Sports bundle costs £43.50 a month, that's £522 a year. It's enough to take you somewhere sunny on holiday. It's enough to buy a whole new wardrobe full of clothes. Or, more importantly, several weekly food shops. Whatever else you could do with that money, it's certainly enough to make you think twice about whether or not you want to keep paying those subscription fees. Potential saving: £522
You might not be able to pay your credit card off straight away, but you can cut the cost. If your credit card has a rate of 18.9% and you have a balance of £5,000, then you could save £472 by doing a balance transfer to a credit card with a 0% introductory deal for the first six months. Potential saving: £472