How to Switch Business Energy Provider
From laptops and the lunchtime microwave to more heavy-duty equipment specific to your sector, business energy powers many aspects of your work. But are you getting the best deal? Find out how to switch business energy provider, and what to watch out for when you do.
Just like with your gas and electricity at home, it pays 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 a bunch of rules and requirements you have 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.
» COMPARE: Business energy with NerdWallet
Why switch business energy provider?
Alongside your commercial rent or mortgage, business energy can be one of the biggest operational costs related to the running of your organisation.
One way to try and 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, whether it is with the same provider or a new one, you will likely find yourself on your existing provider’s most expensive rate.
Steps 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.
How do I find my business energy supplier?
It may sound like a basic starting point, but whether you want to switch your gas or electric, first of all you need to find your current business energy suppliers.
If you have been at your business premises for a while, it will be on your most recent business energy bill.
However, if you have just moved into a new business premises, you may not automatically know your supplier. In this case, you can contact your landlord or, if you have their details, the previous tenant or owner to ask who your business energy supplier is.
If you don’t have these contact details to hand, however, 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.
» COMPARE: Business electricity
When can I switch business energy suppliers?
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. This could be anywhere from 30 days to more than 90 days.
In order to avoid rolling over to a more expensive tariff at the end of your contract, and secure a smooth switchover, you can issue a notice of termination to satisfy the notice period before your expiry date.
You will need to 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 fail to immediately switch to a new provider, you won’t be left without gas or electricity. Instead, you will 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 still need to provide notice to your supplier. This should, however, be shorter than the notice period for a fixed-term contract.
If you are on a deemed rate
If you move into a 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 did not pick this contract yourself, but instead inherited your provider, you are free to switch business energy suppliers at any time.
» COMPARE: Business gas
What do I need to switch business energy suppliers?
Before you start applying to switch business energy suppliers, it is best to make sure you have all the details you need to hand.
This will include, but is not limited to:
- 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.
What to look out for when comparing business energy suppliers
It is always worth asking your current provider if they 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. You should make sure to 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 their customer service, specifically what they are like at responding to urgent enquiries.
- Whether the business energy supplier is offering any extra incentives to sign a contract.
- If the contract has a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period, in case you wish 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.
When it comes to finding a new supplier, you can use our business energy comparison page to see how providers stack up against each other.
Alternatively, you may want to consider a business energy broker. For a fee, they can carry out the negotiation process with the supplier for you.
However, if you do use a business energy broker, it is important to make sure they offer a full-market comparison, and that you check exactly what they will require payment for.
Finalising your business energy switch
Once you have selected 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 and/or electricity.
Also, remember you must satisfy the notice period for your current supplier and issue a termination notice before you make the switch.
It will normally take between three and six weeks for the business energy switch to be completed.
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, many business energy suppliers will not provide you with the option of 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, and decide to apply for a business energy contract.
Firstly, you will be classed as a micro business for business energy purposes if you satisfy one of the following:
- You have fewer than 10 employees, and an annual turnover or balance sheet of less than €2 million (£1.67m).
- 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 do meet any of these requirements, then you are entitled to certain business energy benefits. This includes:
- A maximum notice period of 30 days to end your contract.
- The contract end date and notice period clearly visible on each energy bill.
- If you fail to switch suppliers, or sign a new contract with your current supplier, your ‘rollover’ contract cannot last longer than 12 months.
To work out whether or not 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.
Image source: Getty Images
Connor is a writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and The Independent. Read more