It's no secret that energy prices these days are starting to get a little out of control. And whilst there's no shortage of special discount tarriffs to give domestic customers a helping hand, businesses are often left with the most expensive rates - and little support from regulators. That's why it's absolutely essential that business owners do their due dilligence themselves, and identify a provider that works for their team. If you need some help getting started, here are a few pointers.
Providers are governed by the same regulator, but that doesn't necessarily mean they stick to the same pricing methods: some have very high standing charges, with low unit costs, while others take the opposite approach.
If you're a relatively low user, you should probably try and avoid high standing charges as these are flat rates that are applied regardless of your consumption (and, in many cases, used to fund services you're not necessarily personally receiving).
For very low users with a particular set of circumstances (those circumstances being that you share an office or facility with one or more businesses), you can also consider jointly negotiating a shard tariff as a single unit - that would save you having to shell out on multiple sets of standing charges.
Ofgem mandates that each provider must offer two different types of business rates. There's the standard business tariff, for companies which are considered medium-sized or large, and a micro business tariff, aimed at smaller organisations which use relatively little electricity.
To get on the lower tariff, you'll have to prove your company has fewer than 10 employees and turns over less than £2m a year, or that it consumes less than 100,000 kWh of electricity over 12 months.
Convincing your providers that you're a micro business has the potential be a long and drawn out process, but in practice: they want your custom so should listen to reason provided you are honest and upfront.
Whilst the government are now looking to implement a price cap in the near future, that doesn't stop companies from resetting their price scheme with each financial year.
Remember that electricity companies often tailor their charges to the vagaries of the weather and the wider economy (a particularly mild winter, for exmaple, can set them off track) - so it's vitally important you know when your contracts are up for expiry in order to prepare yourself for shopping around when the time is right.
For personalised quotes, you need to give providers a call and have a chat with them about your business and its needs (and make sure you're speaking to someone within the appointed business team - not a run-of-the-mill customer services advisor).
npower are currently enticing customers to switch providers with the promise of three months free standing charges - but bear in mind you have to enter into a fixed-period contract to reap the benefits.
But we recommend looking at British Gas as a first port of call because of the transparency with which they conduct their business. They will tell you exactly what's expected of you in terms of opting out and switching providers, and exactly how they've calculated your bill (in other words, no hidden charges).