Moneywise Home Finances Awards 2014: the winners

Published by Mark King on 05 November 2014.
Last updated on 06 November 2014

HFA 2014

At this time of year, there's nothing most of us like more than turning the heating up, getting cosy on the sofa, and watching a good TV programme or movie. But relaxing like this is far from free. Even after you factor in mortgage or rent, there's council tax, energy, and your entertainment (TV licence, Sky, etc) to pay for. And they're not cheap.

Household bills are taking up an increasing percentage of our finances (electricity bills have gone up by an average of 6% in the year to August 2014 alone compared to wage growth of 1.7%), so it's no wonder that 1.6 million households are close to the brink, independent think tank the Resolution Foundation claims, spending more than half their disposable income on these ongoing costs.

So with that in mind, Moneywise has this year launched the inaugural Home Finances Awards. Following the success of our Customer Service Awards earlier this year – voted for by 35,000 people – we wanted to identify and reward the household names Britain's households rely on every day.

We asked people to rate firms on a variety of indicators, including value for money and customer service – and the results are surprising. From broadband, TV and landline providers to companies providing us with energy, mobile and video on-demand services, we've highlighted Britain's best.

Generation X versus the baby boomers

The Home Finances Survey didn't just seek to find Britain's best companies, we also wanted to find out more about your lifestyles so we could work out, for example, whether people in rural areas were happier with their broadband service – or whether older people preferred certain companies or services more than young people.

In order to help us with that, we split respondents into age categories using the following definitions, which you'll see referenced throughout the awards coverage:

  • Generation Y: 18-32 years old
  • Generation X: 33-47 years old
  • Baby Boomers: 48-67 years of age
  • Pre-Boomers: 68 years old and above


Home entertainment bundles – where you purchase your broadband, landline and TV package from the same provider – are increasingly popular. It's no wonder because it means you only have to keep track of a single bill and there are discounts to be had from trusting one company with all three services.

According to, it's "almost always" cheaper than getting single products separately, and it also makes switching easy as you can move everything to a new provider in one go. Bundles also tend to make sense for people who are more interested in TV, otherwise you may as well buy a Freeview box and choose alternative providers for your landline and broadband.

The demographics make for interesting reading, too – especially for providers. Our survey found that younger people are more likely to switch bundles than older consumers, perhaps reflecting the fact that older people tend to be more loyal to companies they use.

We also found that not all age groups use bundles for the same thing. A quarter of Generation Y never use their landline, while 38% of this age group only use it a few times a month, more than likely because they are using their mobile phone instead.

Best for service

Winner: Virgin Media
Highly commended: Sky

Virgin Media wins our best service award, perhaps reflecting the serious steps it has made with its TV offering in recent months. It now offers 260-plus channels with its most expensive tariff (Big Daddy at £80 a month) but still offers an impressive 130-plus channels on its £20-a-month bundle (Big Bang). You can also access Sky Sports as well as BT Sports with a Virgin bundle, plus Netflix and movie channels, depending on how much you pay, making it a decent purchase for sports and movie fans.

While the bundle offering from Sky – which is highly commended in this category – proved popular with Generations X & Y (and BT's was favoured by Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers), it was Virgin Media that respondents of all ages said they liked, which is why it wins this inaugural award.

Dana Strong, chief operating officer at Virgin Media, said: "I'm delighted Virgin Media has been named the best by Moneywise readers as we're committed to giving our customers great service. Our Big Bundles include more entertainment than ever before and unbeatable superfast broadband, combined with the country's best value mobile SIM."

The dubious honour of worst customer service goes to BT.

Best for value for money

Winner: TalkTalk
Highly commended: BT

TalkTalk has scooped our value-for-money award, which is not surprising given it offers a basic TV and broadband bundle, including free evening and weekend calls, for just £4.25 (plus £15.95 a month line rental).

TalkTalk has had had its problems in the past (it was regularly voted worst company for customer service in newspaper polls a few years ago), perhaps reaching its nadir with a £3 million fine levied by regulator Ofcom for incorrect billing issues. But the company seems to have turned things around, with a streamlined media offering that appeals to older consumers more than younger people (according to our survey).

A TalkTalk spokesperson told Moneywise: "Our goal is to make Britain better off and we work tirelessly to strip out unnecessary costs to pass the savings to our customers. It's great to see our hard work recognised with awards and fantastic to know we're making a difference for British families."

Highly commended is BT, which has a big presence among Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers. The worst-rated company for value for money was Sky, which charges £86.65 a month for its most expensive bundle.

Most recommended

Winner: TalkTalk
Highly commended: Virgin Media

It's one thing being rated the best value for money but there's further proof that TalkTalk has transformed itself in recent years with a second win in this year's awards. The fact that the majority of people would recommend TalkTalk over rivals indicates that it is getting its customer service as well as its pricing right.

Highly commended in this category is Virgin Media, while the firm least likely to be recommended to others is BT.


Television is such a huge part of the bundle equation that we wanted to see who was rated most highly when we stripped it out and left only broadband and landline behind. After all, many people do not want to pay for additional TV services and only require the internet and a phone in their home.

Best for service

Winner: Plusnet
Highly commended: Virgin Media

Plusnet wins the award for best broadband and landline provider, building on its recent success in our Customer Service Awards in August 2014, where it was highly commended in the Most Trusted Broadband Provider category.

Andy Baker, chief executive of Plusnet, said: "We believe our customers are entitled to both great value and customer service, without compromise, so it is truly encouraging to have won these awards through a public vote. We continue to invest in both our product offering and customer service. We are recruiting more service advisers to our team on a daily basis and will be launching new products next year."

Highly commended was Virgin Media, which has generally performed very well in this year's awards. Surprisingly, worst provider was TalkTalk, winner of one of our bundle categories (above).

Most recommended

Winner: Plusnet
Highly commended: TalkTalk

Plusnet’s Baker was equally delighted with his company's win in this category, stating: "We're really happy to also receive the ‘most recommended' title, too. It's fitting because this year we have reached a significant milestone with our unique My Referrals scheme, rewarding more than £6 milllion to customers who recommend our service to family and friends in order to earn money back off their monthly bill."

Back on winning form, TalkTalk is highly commended here.

Best for value for money

Winner: Plusnet
Highly commended: TalkTalk

Completing a clean sweep of this section of the awards, Plusnet also scoops the Best for Value For Money award, beating off strong competition from TalkTalk, which won this award with TV included in the bundle (above).

Highly recommended was, once again, TalkTalk, while the least-rated provider for value for money was BT and the the EE/Orange/T-Mobile companies came last in this category.


In the old days, video on demand meant walking to your nearest rental shop and hiring a movie on VHS (I fondly remember hiring ET for the first time in the late-1980s). These days, video on demand (VoD) refers to services you can download or stream at home or on the go.
VoD is useful because not everyone watches TV at the same time these days – and certainly not when a programme is originally broadcast.

We prefer to record and watch at our leisure, paying to rent films and TV boxsets, streaming or downloading them via a set-top box or straight to our tablets or other devices. Indeed, binge-watching popular shows such as Breaking Bad or True Detective is now commmonplace.

The most active companies in this area are Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video (formerly LoveFilm), Apple TV, Now TV and Blinkbox.

Most recommended

Winner: Netflix

As the VOD market is tiny compared to other categories we surveyed for this year's awards, we decided to go with a single award for our inaugural year. Netflix was voted the Most Recommended VoD provider, beating off stiff competition from Blinkbox and Now TV.

It could be Netflix's flexibility that counted (you can watch it on your PlayStation, Wii, Xbox, PC, Mac, Mobile, Tablet and television) but it's just as likely to be a growing satisfaction with the content it offers. From a once- meagre offering upon its UK launch in January 2012, Netflix now boasts a far wider range of TV and films, including exclusive access to the highly-praised House of Cards TV series.

It's worth noting that there is currently low take-up of VoD among households but it is greater among younger people. Almost a fifth (18.8%) of Generation Y consumers currently use VoD, while this drops to just 3.1% of Pre- Boomers. We'll be watching closely to see how this sector develops in future years.


Mobile is one of the key expenses faced by consumers. If you want the latest iPhone 6, you'll have to fork out at least £539 upfront or if you opt for a two-year contract you can get it from £43.50 a month via for a total outlay of £1,044 (and that's before you go over your allowance and end up forking out even more). Either way, mobile phones and tariffs cost serious money.

Our research shows that most young people have a mobile phone on contract, with just 17.4% of Generation Y using Pay As You Go (PAYG). This evens out by the time people hit Pre-Boomer age, with 49.3% of the 68+ age category on contract and 50.7% on PAYG.

Young people are clearly paying over the odds, with 67% of Gen Y on a two-year contract, and 38% of them paying £30 or more a month for the pleasure (more than one in 10 pay £40 or more a month). Older people spend less on their mobiles, with only 8.2% of Pre-Boomers paying £30 or more a month, while 76.9% of Pre-Boomers pay less than £20 a month and 35.7% pay less than £10 a month.

When it comes to mobile internet, 56.3% of Pre- Boomers don't even have any data included in their allowance, while 91.2% of Gen Y mobile users make sure data is included in their tariff.Youngsters are also more likely to have more expensive phones, with 39.4% owning an Apple iPhone of some description compared to 18% of Baby Boomers and just 9.4% of Pre-Boomers. By contrast, 32.4% of Pre-Boomers have a Nokia.

Among providers, Orange is popular among all age groups but younger people appear to prefer O2 – perhaps a reflection of the work O2 does in promoting live music and events – and Three, which has been a leader in super-fast data.Virgin Mobile is more popular among older people, which could reflect the fact that Virgin was a pioneer in the PAYG market and older people tend to use PAYG more than younger people.

Best mobile network

Winner: O2

While O2 did not win any of our mobile category awards outright, it was consistently rated highly by customers. Given the fact that both Tesco and GiffGaff (which have shared our mobile awards this year) operate on the O2 network, it's clear that the company is doing something right.

Owned by Telefónica, the firm has more than 23 million customers and was shortlisted for a Which? Best Telecom Services Provider award last year. It also won gongs at the uSwitch Mobile Awards last year: Best Pay Monthly Network and Best for Perks/Freebies.

Our research indicates that O2 is popular among Generation Y – perhaps no surprise given that O2 operates the gigantic O2 Arena music venue, playing host to the likes of Beyoncé, Arctic Monkeys, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, Jessie J and Rihanna.

Best for service

Winner: Tesco
Highly commended: GiffGaff

Somewhat surprisingly, Tesco has been voted the Best Mobile Provider for Service, perhaps reflecting the ease with which one can shop for mobiles and talk to staff in store.

A spokesperson for Tesco Mobile, said: "We are hugely proud to have had such a good showing in the Moneywise Home Finances Awards – and in particular the Best for Service prize, which we won outright. Hopefully, this proves that you can provide the best possible value without compromising on responsiveness, speed, helpfulness and any of the other principles of great customer service."

GiffGaff (more below) is highly commended, while EE was voted the worst provider for service.

Best for value for money

Winner: GiffGaff
Highly commended: Tesco

Not everyone has heard of GiffGaff, the mobile phone network launched in 2009 but it has nevertheless won our inaugural Best Value For Money mobile provider. GiffGaff piggy-backs on the O2 network but offers a cheaper service. The reason for that is because it has none of the infrastructure of a traditional mobile phone network operator, with no real customer service operation (which can be daunting for people with less familiarity with technology).

Instead, it has an extensive online forum where customers can ask questions of informed members of the community and, hopefully, receive meaningful answers. The better the answer, the more kudos and rewards the community member receives, so there are incentives to ensure the service runs smoothly.

Price is key, with SIM-only packages available from just £5 a month, although the decent data-laden plans cost at least £10 a month, with £18 a month giving you unlimited data and texts as well as 2,000 UK minutes.

Tesco is highly commended in this category, while Vodafone was voted the worst value-for-money provider.

Most recommended

Winner: GiffGaff
Highly commended: Tesco

GiffGaff scoops this one too, with customers more most likely to recommend it than any of its rivals. Tesco Mobile came second, while the company least likely to be recommended is Vodafone.


A lot has been written about the increasing cost of energy, which is unsurprising given electricity and gas prices rarely move any way but up. The typical dual fuel tariff now sets households back at least £1,000 a year, making it crucial to shop around for the cheapest (and most reliable) supplier.

Our research indicates that a third of Generation Y households are not on dual fuel plans, perhaps because they live in shared flats and do not have a choice about supplier. Almost a third (31%) of Gen Y have never switched providers, falling to only 10% of Pre-Boomers.

As they haven't switched as much as older people, younger people are more likely to use one of the Big Six energy suppliers (often the most expensive). Young people also appear to be paying more for the same energy than older people, because fewer young people pay by Direct Debit.

Best gas and electricity for customer service

Winner: Utility Warehouse
Highly commended: OVO Energy

Utility Warehouse, winner of the Most Trusted Broadband Provider award in our Customer Service Awards in August 2014, has won the best provider for customer service.

Andrew Lindsay MBE, chief executive of Utility Warehouse, said: "We're extremely honoured that our Energy services have been recognised in the Moneywise Home Finances awards. We believe these reflect our commitment to treating all our customers as we would like to be treated ourselves, with everyone automatically benefitting from our cheapest available tariff.

"That's why, unlike other suppliers, we don't think it's fair to lure people in on short-term fixed-rate deals (subsidised by loyal existing customers), only to increase their prices significantly at the end of the discount period."

Highly commended was another smaller supplier, OVO Energy, while the worst provider was Npower, which was also recently voted the worst company in the UK for customer service in a poll conducted by Which?. This follows a year in which it faced extensive billing and complaints issues.

Best gas and electricity for value for money

Winner: Utility Warehouse
Highly commended: OVO Energy

Utility Warehosue does it again, with Moneywise readers praising it this time for its competitive pricing. Again, OVO was highly commended, while Npower was also voted bottom by respondents.


In the UK, we're not able to switch water suppliers – we get what we're given when we move to a region. But we wanted to see how well water companies are serving their customers anyway, so we asked respondents about customer service and value for money. Some 40% of Generation X told us they would switch water companies if they could, although only a quarter of Pre-Boomers would do the same.

Best water provider for customer service

Winner: Scottish Water
Highly commended: Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water)

Scottish Water is clearly servicing its 2.5 million customers well, easily winning our award for customer service. Douglas Millican, chief executive of the firm, said: "Scottish Water's focus in recent years has been on delivering improved services for customers at the lowest possible cost. We provide essential services for around 2.5 million household customers who are now enjoying the benefits of Scotland's highest ever drinking water quality."

"We are pleased that customers contacted in this survey have spoken positively of their experiences of Scottish Water. We have seen our customer satisfaction reach record levels and our recently announced 2015-21 investment programme will help deliver further benefits for our customers, the environment and the Scottish economy."

Welsh Water takes the highly commended accolade.

Best water provider for value for money

Winner: Scottish Water
Highly commended: Yorkshire Water

Scottish Water completes the double, with a win for value for money, too. Millican added: "Our average household charges are £54 lower than the average household charge in England and Wales, and we are committed to maintaining low-level charge increases in the years ahead."

Yorkshire Water takes the highly commended prize.

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