Utilita is the UK's largest specialist pay as you go energy company. If you don't have a prepayment meter then you may never have heard about Utilita even though it is classed as a medium sized supplier according to Ofgem.
William Bullen is Director of Utilita Energy although the company is owned by Utilita Group Ltd of which William Bullen has controlling shares.
The company claims to offer better service and a fairer deal to its customers. They also claim that their 'customers use about 20% less energy than the average bill-paying home' and state that 'we believe we’ve saved our customers at least £500m since 2010'.
Utilita reported that it has 810,000 customers (November 2010) and 90% of their customers have a smart meter installed. The energy company is focussed on technology and encourages their customers to reduce their energy usage to save money by offering energy saving advice and relevant information through their smart in-home display.
You can switch to Utilita if you are not on a prepayment meter but at the time of writing (February 2021) you cannot get a quote on their website unless you already have a prepayment meter installed.
I contacted Utilita both on their web chat and eventually via phone and spent 90 minutes speaking to different Utilita representatives in different departments but was unable to get a clear answer.
I was able to get a quote on the website as a prepayment customer but not if I wanted to pay by direct debit or pay on receipt of a bill. You get directed to call the sales number after a message stating that they are prioritising pay as you go customers to install smart meters.
It doesn't really explain why non prepayment meter customers have to call to get a quote rather than do it online.
Unusually they do not have a standing charge for gas or electricity but instead have a 'First Rate' and 'Saver Rate'. The First Rate essentially covers the cost of the daily standing charge. The first 50p of gas and electricity used each day is charged at the higher First Rate and subsequent gas and electricity usage is charged at the lower Saver Rate.
It works out more expensive for most customers but would benefit people with properties that are unoccupied for periods of time as you would not incur any gas and electricity charges unless you used gas or electric.
|Month price checked||Tariff Name||Electricity daily standing charge||Electricity pence per KWh First Rate||Electricity pence per KWh Saver Rate||Gas daily standing charge||Gas pence per KWh First Rate||Gas pence per KWh Saver Rate||Monthly Cost|
|February 2021||Smart Energy (prepayment)||0||31.087||16.806||0||20.753||2.800||£91|
|February 2021||Smart Energy (credit/direct debit))||0||29.273||17.165||0||15.821||2.927||£88.83|
Smart Energy Tariff
I was assured by customer service that the Smart Energy tariff does not mean you have to get a smart meter in order to switch to this tariff.
The Smart Energy tariff has no daily standing charge but instead you are charged a higher kWh rate for the first fifty pence of gas and fifty pence of electricity that you use each day. It essentially makes a standing charge equivalent of 50p for gas and electric.
On the plus side this type of tariff is good for people with properties where there may be days or periods of time where no energy is consumed. With no daily standing charge you will have no heating or electric charges as long as you remember to switch the electric off when you leave the property unoccupied. Possibly useful for a holiday home.
For a prepayment meter customer in an average UK household you would pay £91 a month. I was unable to get a quote through their website for a credit meter (non prepayment meter) customer and none of the customer service people I spoke to were able to explain why.
I did however call through to their sales line, although it did take a while to get through and got a quote which came out to £88.83 per month. Compared to the same tariff for a prepayment customer it works out about £2 a month cheaper on a standard meter compared to pay as you go.
For comparison the rates for both prepayment and credit meter customers are included in the tariff table. It shows that whilst credit meter customers will get a cheaper first rate the kWh charge for gas and electricity on the saver rate is more expensive.
Is Utilita cheaper?
Compared to other prepayment meter tariffs on the market Utilita is one of the more expensive utilities. Comparing our £91 a month quote against other pay as you go tariffs there are a number of cheaper deals. Nabuh Energy, Omni and London Power all charge about £82 a month. Orbit and People's Energy both charge £83 a month whilst Bulb charge about £86 a month and Shell Energy is slightly cheaper at About £90 a month.
Out of all the companies offering pay as you go tariffs at a lower price the best rated suppliers in terms of customer service are Bulb Energy and London Power. Whilst Bulb offers deals nationwide London Power only serve the London Community.
To ensure you get the best deal you should do an energy comparison to compare all energy providers at once to see which currently offers you the best deal rather than relying on a single quote.
Utilita Energy Review
Utilita seems quite committed to supporting customers on prepayment meters where you have to top up your credit as you use your gas and electricity. They do make claims on their website which I will cover in this review, specifically the claim made about their customer using 20% less energy compared to other households.
Utilita Trustpilot Reviews
Utilita Energy has a reasonable 4.3 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot which places it on much the same footing as EDF in terms of customer reviews. Their score has increased since the last energy review of UK suppliers and the number of negative review has reduced slightly over the last year which shows that they are improving overall.
The percentage of bad reviews is currently at 19% which whilst is quite high is on par with other larger suppliers. Utilita has managed to reduce the number of negative reviews it has received each month over the past year so does appear to be improving things for its customers.
Ofgem publishes customer complaints data so you can see how many complaints each energy company receives. Utilita has in the past had a large number of complaints made against them. From 2016 to the start of 2018 they were the most complained about medium sized energy supplier.
The last two published quarters, Q2 and Q3 or 2020 their figures have substantially improved from 4,000 to 6,000 complaints a quarter down to around 500 complaints.
Whilst the energy provider is receiving fewer complaints they are still underperforming compared to their piers for resolving complaints. Over the last 2 years they have on average been the worst for resolving complaints by the next working day and within eight weeks compared to other medium sized suppliers.
Utilita Energy Hi 5 Campaign
One of the aspects of Utilita's service that did catch my attention was their claim that their customers use 20% less energy than the average bill paying home. The energy usage savings come about by encouraging customers to switch things off.
Specific advice is given to switch the heating off when you are not at home, wash clothes at 30 degrees rather than 40, switch lights off when not in the room, unplug electrical devices and avoid leaving devices in standby mode. They suggest the average household can save £163 a year by doing this.
You can reduce your energy usage by changing your habits. I've done this and reduced my gas and electricity usage by a third. One of the easiest things to do is replace your light bulbs with LED replacements which can save 90% on your lighting costs compared to the old incandescent bulbs.
However the claims on their website state that a 20% saving is made by their customers implying that if you switch to them you will reduce your energy usage by 20%.
The information on the site seems to suggest that by using the Utilita Smart Meter and in-home display that you can see your energy usage and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
Utilita also provides energy saving advice in order to help you reduce your energy usage.
There is no evidence provided for the claimed 20% energy reduction and so far none of the company representatives have been able to provide any evidence to back up their claims.