Energy bills can be expensive for small businesses, and industry regulator Ofgem has spent years trying to simplify the market in an effort to help SMEs get to grips with a cost that can spiral all too easily.
It's been a long, drawn-out process - and there's still plenty that needs to be done - but new rules that finally came into effect on 1st April should make it easier for small firms to reduce their bills. So, what's changed?
The most notable overhaul is that suppliers are now obliged to print two key dates on your business's energy bill - a contract end date and a notice period end date. This is a significant step because these dates effectively highlight when you need to act in order to get the best prices for your gas and electricity.
The most notable overhaul is that suppliers are now obliged to print two key dates on your business's energy bill - a contract end date and a notice period end date
Typically, many businesses are unaware of these dates and subsequently find themselves tied into more expensive contracts when their deals expire. Now that the information is far more accessible, an increasing number of SMEs should act to drive down their rates, and therefore their bills.
Naturally, this will depend on whether or not small business owners understand the significance of these dates.
The notice period end date is the most important, as this is effectively your deadline for arranging a new deal. If this date passes and you haven't agreed a new contract - either with your existing supplier or another provider - then you'll automatically be rolled onto more expensive rates when your contract end date arrives.
However, if you do arrange a cheaper tariff ahead of your notice period end date, this will come into effect when your existing contract expires. Put simply, the time leading up to your notice period end date is the all-important window where you take action to secure a new deal on competitive rates, and the contract end date is the day before those new rates will come into effect.
With such vital information now displayed on bills, all SME owners should be able to see exactly when they need to act in order to get the best prices for their gas and electricity.
Ideally, this would mean that businesses no longer find themselves paying over the odds for energy - but will things really be this simple?
Well, suppliers have a tendency to make life difficult for businesses, so perhaps it would be naïve to assume that the two dates will be displayed in a clear and obvious way.
Printing the information is one thing, but marking it out and drawing people's attention to it is another. As such, the onus will be on business owners to analyse their bills and locate the relevant dates in order to take control of their energy contract.
Have you noticed the dates on your bills? Is your supplier making it obvious they're there? Let us know in the comments section below.
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
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