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Just like with your gas and electricity at home, it can pay to shop around for business energy. Sticking with the same supplier for several years could mean you are not getting the best deal for your business.
However, when looking to switch business energy provider, there are several rules and requirements to keep in mind.
Below, we detail everything you need to know about your business energy switch, including how to find your supplier, when you can switch, and what to watch out for if you are a micro business.
How to switch business energy provider
If you are considering switching business energy supplier, you should follow these five steps:
- Find the name of your current business energy suppliers.
- Check your contract to find out when you can switch suppliers.
- Get the details of your business energy contract, including yearly usage.
- Compare business energy suppliers to find the best deal.
- Finalise your new business energy contract.
Why switch business energy provider?
Alongside your commercial rent or mortgage, business energy can be one of your biggest operational costs.
One way to try to keep these costs down is by actively seeking out the cheapest tariffs when your business gas or electricity contract is coming to an end. If you don’t arrange a new contract by the time your old one is up you will likely find yourself on your existing provider’s most expensive rate.
Step 1: Identify your business energy supplier
If you want to switch your gas or electric, you need to know which suppliers you are currently with. This will be on your most recent business energy bill or, if you have just moved into a new business premises, you can contact your landlord or the previous tenant or owner to ask who your business energy supplier is.
If you don’t have these contact details to hand, there are ways to find your gas and electricity suppliers.
- The Meter Point Administration Service can help find your business gas supplier.
- The Energy Network Association search tool can help identify your electricity provider. This will involve first finding your network operator, which can then give you the details of your supplier.
Step 2: Find out when you can switch business energy provider
Once you have the name of your provider, you will need to find out when you can switch business energy suppliers.
If you are on a fixed-term contract
If you are still under a fixed-term contract with your supplier, you will usually have to wait until that contract has expired to switch providers at the same business premises.
As well as the expiry date, you will also need to check if your contract involves a notice period. Typically, this could be anywhere from 30 days to 120 days.
Your supplier should contact you around three months before the end of your contract with details of its renewal offer.
To avoid rolling over to a more expensive tariff at the end of your contract, and to secure a smooth switchover, you will need to issue a notice of termination to your current supplier within your notice period. Your energy broker or the provider you’re switching to may do this for you.
Check whether your supplier accepts a termination notice over the phone, or whether you need to send the notice as an email.
If you are out of contract
If you don’t negotiate a new deal with your energy supplier or immediately switch to a new provider, you won’t be left without gas or electricity. Instead, you may be moved to your original supplier’s ‘out of contract’ rates, which will likely be far more expensive than your fixed-term contract.
To switch from an out-of-contract rate, you may not need to provide your supplier with any notice. However, this can vary from provider to provider. .
If you are on a deemed rate
If you move into new business premises, you will be placed on a deemed rate. Like an ‘out of contract’ rate, this will typically be more expensive than a fixed-term contract.
However, since you inherited the contract from your provider, you are free to switch business energy suppliers at any time.
Step 3: Compile everything you need to switch business energy suppliers
Before you start the process of switching business energy suppliers, make sure you have all the details you need to hand.
This will include:
- The postcode of your business premises.
- The name of your current business energy supplier.
- The details of your current business energy contract, including its end date and notice period length.
- The current cost of your business energy per unit in kilowatt hours (kWh), as well as any standing charges.
- Your annual energy usage.
You will be able to find most of this information on either your most recent energy bill, or your business energy online account.
Step 4: Compare business energy suppliers
It is always worth asking your current provider if it can switch you to a cheaper tariff.
Once you have your current provider’s offer, you can then start comparing the merits of each supplier. Take into account:
- the unit cost per kilowatt hour (kWh)
- any other charges and maintenance fees, including your standing charge
- the length of the contract, any exit fees, and whether it has a notice period
- reviews of its customer service, specifically how well it responds to urgent inquiries
- whether the business energy supplier offers any extra incentives
- if the contract has a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period, in case you want to pull out of the contract after signing – this is unusual with business energy contracts, unless you are a micro business
- whether the supplier offers 100% renewable business energy
You can find out more about how to compare providers with our business energy comparison page, or you could consider using a business energy broker. For a fee, they can carry out the negotiation process with the supplier for you. Make sure they offer a full-market comparison, and check exactly what their charges will be.
» MORE: Business energy claims
Step 5: Finalise your business energy switch
Once you have chosen your new business energy supplier and signed the contract, it is time to finalise your switch.
This may involve providing your payment details or setting up a direct debit, creating an online login, and supplying up-to-date meter readings for your gas or electricity.
Also, remember you must satisfy the notice period for your current supplier and issue a termination notice before you make the switch.
How long will it take to switch?
Under the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) switching programme, if your business is based in England, Scotland or Wales, it should only take two two working days for your switch to be completed –, or four if you are a large gas business customer.
You will only be able to pull out of the contract once it has been signed if it has a 14-day cooling-off period, and you are still within that period of time.
Unless you are a micro business in England, Wales or Scotland, many business energy suppliers don’t offer a cooling-off period, so it is important to make sure you are happy with the terms of your contract before signing.
Switching business energy as a micro business
There are specific rules in place to protect you if you are a micro business in England, Scotland or Wales, and decide to apply for a business energy contract.
You are classed as a micro business for business energy purposes if you one or more of the following apply:
- You have fewer than 10 employees, and an annual turnover or balance sheet of less than €2 million.
- You use up to 100,000 kWh of electricity a year.
- You use up to 293,000 kWh of gas a year.
These rules mean that many small businesses in the UK would technically be classified as micro businesses.
If you meet any of these requirements, you are entitled to certain business energy benefits, including:
- a maximum notice period of 30 days to end your contract
- the contract end date and notice period clearly visible on each energy bill
- your ‘rollover’ contract not lasting longer than 12 months if you don’t switch suppliers or sign a new contract with your current supplier
To work out whether you need business energy as a micro business, it is worth carrying out a business energy audit. Among other things, this will help you identify how much energy you use, and, if you work from home, how much of that energy is specifically for business purposes.
The energy market in Northern Ireland is regulated separately from the rest of the UK. So if you are a micro business based in Northern Ireland, you will be regulated by the Utility Regulator (UR) and may not get the same protections as micro businesses in England, Scotland and Wales.
Help with switching business energy suppliers
If you need further guidance about switching business energy suppliers, you can read our frequently asked questions below:
What if I am switched without my consent?
While it is rare, if you receive an unexpected welcome letter or final energy bill notifying you of a switch you did not initiate, tell your original business energy supplier.
If the issue isn’t resolved, you can make a complaint. Citizens Advice may also be able to help.
Be aware that you are not automatically eligible for compensation if you are mistakenly switched to a new supplier.
How do I switch business energy if I rent my premises?
If you rent your business premises, check your rental agreement so you know if it’s up to you or your landlord to switch business energy suppliers.
You should also check whether you need to give your landlord notice of your intention to switch suppliers, or if your rental agreement has a ‘default supplier clause’.
If it is your responsibility to pay your business energy bills, consumer protection law states you have the right to choose your own supplier.
Can my business energy provider object to the switch?
There are certain circumstances that may cause your existing business energy provider to object to your switch. This includes if you:
- have been in debt to your supplier for longer than 28 days
- are not at the end of your original contract
- have not given your original supplier the required amount of notice
- are accused of breaking the terms of your contract
- are switching multiple meters, and one has not been picked up in the application process
Under the Ofgem switching programme, suppliers have up to two working days to object to a business energy switch.
If your existing provider raises an objection, this may slow down or even stop your switchover process. You will need to clear the objection with your existing supplier before the switch can go ahead.
Unless you have been in debt to your supplier for more than 28 days, the provider cannot object to your switch if:
- your contract has ended
- you are on a deemed rate
If you take issue with the objection, and are unable to resolve it with the supplier, you can make a complaint. However, as a business, you are not eligible for automatic compensation if there are problems with your switch.
» MORE: What is Ofgem?
How do I complain about my business energy supplier?
Contact your business energy supplier directly if you have an issue. Note down the date, the name of the customer adviser you speak to, and what you are complaining about, for future reference.
If your problem isn’t resolved, and you want to make a more formal complaint, gather supporting evidence that’s specific to your complaint – it could be anything from photos of a broken meter to copies of disputed bills.
You can then look up your supplier’s complaints procedure on its website. The supplier should send you a ‘decision letter’ or ‘letter of deadlock’ in response within eight weeks.
If eight weeks have passed and you are not happy with your supplier’s response, or have not received a response, you can submit an official complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.
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