Business energy contracts – what’s changed and how does it affect you?
Common practices surrounding business energy contracts changed at the end of 2014. Here’s a quick guide to the new rules and what they mean for Britain’s businesses.
New practices adopted by business energy suppliers towards the end of 2014 mean that the vast majority of business energy contracts now work slightly differently to the way they did in the past.
The good news is that these changes will result in less businesses getting tied into expensive contracts for their gas and electricity – but that’s not to say that everything is now plain sailing, as some things are staying the same.
A fixed-term contract will still dictate how much you’re paying your supplier – and for how long. What’s changing is what happens when your contract ends.
In the past, if you let your business energy contract expire without agreeing a new deal, your supplier would routinely place your business into a new, fixed-term contract – a process referred to as rolling over.
This new contract would almost certainly be significantly more expensive than the old one, and would usually leave you tied into unnecessarily high bills for as long as a year.
It’s this rollover practice that has thankfully changed, as a significant majority of business energy suppliers abandoned the process towards the end of 2014.
It’s a small change, but it’s a small change that gives you more power – if your old deal has expired, you can act today and be on the best business electricity rates for you in just over a month’s time.
As a result, 95% of small businesses* no longer face the threat of being stuck on an expensive new deal if they fail to act before their existing contract expires. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll no longer run the risk of being charged higher rates.
What happens now?
While rollovers have largely been abandoned, if you don’t agree a new deal before your contract expires your existing supplier will still continue to provide your energy – and it’s more than likely they’ll place your business on more expensive rates to do so.
The difference is that you won’t be tied into these more expensive business energy rates for a lengthy period of time – in most cases, you’ll be able to switch to a better deal after a 30 day notice period.
It’s a small change, but it’s a small change that gives you more power – if your old deal has expired, you can act today and be on fairer rates in just over a month’s time. In the past, you’d have had to wait for up to a year.
What should you do?
As the change only affects you if you let your contract expire, our advice is the same as always – the best course of action is to agree a new deal that’s right for you before you reach your notice period end date. Waiting for your contract to expire will only result in you paying unnecessarily high bills.
By acting before your notice period end date, you’ll be able to ensure that you avoid the risk of being placed on significantly more expensive rates when your existing contract eventually expires – you’ll save money, and you’ll have a much better idea of how much your bills are going to cost. You can find your notice period end date on your latest energy bill.
If this date has already passed and your contract has expired, it’s important to sign a new deal as soon as possible. That’s because you’ll currently be paying over the odds for your energy – but you can quickly solve that problem by agreeing a new deal at a fairer rate.
And if you’re unsure whether or not you’re in a contract, simply find a copy of your latest bill and give us a call – one of our experts will be able to advise you on your situation and arrange a deal that’s right for you.
*The majority of business energy suppliers have abandoned rollovers, but three still use the controversial system. See our guide for specific information on what your supplier will do when your contract ends.
Dan O’Sullivan is Make It Cheaper's Web Content Manager, which means much of his time is dedicated to ensuring we have plenty of online material to help business owners understand the energy, insurance and telecoms industries. With years of experience working alongside SMEs, Dan is committed to making life as easy as possible for smaller firms. You can email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org