How to switch business energy suppliers
When was the last time you switched business energy suppliers? If you’re not a regular switcher, it could be because you feel you don’t have the time to compare business energy rates or that you won’t save enough money by switching.
But what if we told you that one quick call with Bionic’s tech-enabled experts is all it takes to switch suppliers and save hundreds of pounds on your business energy bills?
Here’s all you need to know to switch energy suppliers for a better deal on business gas and electricity.
Business energy switch and contract basics
Before we look at the why and how of switching, let’s take a quick look at some business energy switch basics, including the terms of your contract and your rights as a commercial energy customer.
What is your switching window?
Your switching window is the earliest point at which you can compare prices and arrange a new deal, and it’s the responsibility of your supplier to let you know when this window opens. As standard, this will be 90-days before the end date of your contract, but timescales can differ so always check your contract. And if you run a microbusiness, bear in mind that the rules around switching are different to those of other SMEs.
However long your switching window, your supplier must provide you with written confirmation of it and also explain their automatic renewal policy and the terms of their deemed contracts.
What happens when your business energy contract ends?
When your business energy contract ends, you'll automatically be rolled onto your supplier’s more expensive out-of-contract rates - to avoid overpaying, you’ll need to run a comparison and switch energy suppliers, or switch to a better deal with your current supplier.
Depending on your supplier, you may be rolled onto a new fixed term contract – often with slightly higher rates – although this is becoming less common. Alternatively, you might be moved on to a 30-day rolling contract with deemed rates - typically your supplier’s most expensive rates - until you formally organise a new contract.
When will you get your new energy contract?
There are a number of obligations that every energy supplier has to meet. Once you sign up to a business energy contract, for example, it’s the responsibility of the new supplier to contact you within ten days outlining the full terms and conditions of your contract, including when your switching window opens, their automatic renewal policy and the terms of their deemed contracts.
No one likes to read the T&Cs, but it’s worth taking the time to read through and understand them – not least because there is no cooling off period business energy contracts. This means you can’t change your contract once you’ve signed on the dotted line, so it can literally pay to make sure everything is as it should be.
Can you opt out of your automatic renewal scheme?
You can opt-out of your supplier’s automatic renewal scheme on the first day of your contract. To do so, you’ll need to write to them once your contract is set up and ask to be removed from the automatic renewal scheme.
This is preferable to being tied into a new long term contract with higher rates, but forgetting to compare rates and find a new deal within your renewal window will leave you on deemed rates until you organise a new contract.
When you change business energy supplier with Bionic, we can take care of your renewals so you never have to worry about overpaying for energy. Our tech-enabled experts can keep an eye on the date of your renewal window and compare deals on your behalf. If you like the deals we’ve chosen, we can switch contracts without you having to lift a finger.
Can your business energy supplier block your switch?
There are three instances in which your business energy supplier can stop you from switching:
- Your current contract hasn’t entered its switching window - Remember that you’re free to compare deals and change suppliers when your contract enters its switching window, but the switch won’t actually take place until your current contract expires.
- You owe your supplier money - You’ll need to repay any money owed to your supplier before you switch, so make sure any arrears are paid up by time your deal enters its switching window.
- You don’t pass your new supplier’s credit check - You may not realised it, but business energy suppliers always run a credit check to help work out whether or not you are low risk or high risk before they enter into a contract with you, so that they can have some assurances that you’re unlikely to default on your energy tariff.
Will your energy be turned off if your business energy switch gets blocked?
The simple answer is no. It’s very rare for a supplier to resort to the lengths of disconnecting a customer’s energy supply.
Disconnection is usually a suppliers’ last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted in trying to recuperate debt from a customer over a considerable time. Before disconnecting your premises, your supplier must make a reasonable effort to contact you, via email, phone and letter.
In addition to an outstanding balance, your supplier has the legal right to disconnect your supply if you have unlawfully altered your premises’ energy meter. An unlawful alteration would be any modification that changes the function of the meter, most commonly to bypass the meter and reduce the amount you’re being charged for energy.
Provided you are not in debt and you have not altered your meter in any unlawful way, then there is very little chance that your supply will be cut off during a switch – even if either supplier chooses to block the switch. In the event that your switch is blocked and your current contract ends, instead of your supply being cut-off, your current supplier will move you onto more expensive out of contract rates until a resolution can be found, and a new contract is organised.
How long does it take to switch business energy?
There is a perception that switching your business energy is a long and drawn out process and that any savings that can be made aren’t enough to make it worth the hassle. But the truth is that Bionic’s tech-enabled experts can find a better business energy deal within a matter of minutes, and switching with us could knock hundreds of pounds off the cost of your business energy bills.
The switch itself should take between four to six weeks, so it makes sense to arrange a new deal at the earliest opportunity. Switching times can be affected by the circumstances of your own business or an objection from your current supplier. These objections can happen for a number of different reasons, including:
- If you have an outstanding balance with your current supplier.
- If both your current and new supplier agree that the switch request was made in error.
- If you have multiple meter points at one premises and fail to switch them all on the same day.
- If termination has not been given to your current supplier.
- If the incorrect contract start date has been given to your new supplier.
If your supplier blocks your switch, they have a legal obligation to let you know why they’re doing so, as soon as possible.
If you choose to switch and you experience switching times beyond 6-weeks, then you should write to your supplier and ask for a progress update.
Your supplier will have 14-days to respond to your query and if they fail to respond within this time then you should seek to escalate the issue to your supplier’s CEO, who will have an additional 14-days.
If you’re having any issues with your business energy supplier or any aspect of your switch, our business energy experts might be able to help, so it’s worth giving us a call for some guidance.
If your supplier does block your switch, and you feel the reason is not legal, then you should seek to raise the issue with the Energy Ombudsman. The Energy Ombudsman will review the reasons given by your current supplier for blocking the switch, and rule whether they are deemed legal or not before declaring a ruling for all parties.
You can contact the energy ombudsman in the following ways:
Phone - 0330 440 1624
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter - @OmbudServices
Website - www.ombudsman-services.org/energy
Post - Energy ombudsman, PO Box 966, Warrington, WA4 9DF
Remember, if you are unsatisfied with the level of service that you receive from your supplier, then you should look to switch as soon as possible – and the fastest and simplest way to do so is with Bionic.
What if you’ve been switched to an energy tariff you didn't agree to?
Unlike domestic energy deals, commercial gas and electricity contracts don’t offer a cooling-off period - once you enter into a contract, you’re bound by its terms for the full duration outlined in the T&Cs.
But if you’ve been switched to a new energy contract that you didn’t agree to, it is possible to break the terms of the contract early and transfer back to your old supplier.
If you think that your business energy contract has been switched without your consent, then you should write to the new supplier as soon as possible and let them know your concerns. It’s important to keep written records of all correspondence over this matter - including dates – in case they are needed for evidence.
It’s also a good idea to write to your old supplier and let them know what the situation is. If the switch was made in error, your previous supplier may be able to support your case.
In the event that you have been switched without your consent, the standard procedure is to revert you back to your old supplier on a deemed rate contract. If you have inadvertently switched the wrong meter out of error, then you can be transferred back to your previous meter – provided you have a contract in place with your current supplier, otherwise your supplier may be unable to apply for the meter again.
If this is the case, then you will be reverted back to your old supplier on a deemed rate contract. If you are switched back to your old supplier but haven’t agreed a formal contract with them, then you should look to switch to a better deal with better rates.
If your current supplier doesn’t acknowledge your initial correspondence within 14-days then you should escalate the issue, in writing, to your supplier’s CEO. If you get no response after 14 days, you can escalate the issue to the Energy Ombudsman who will indecently investigate the issue and make a ruling.
It’s important to be aware that failing to organise a new contract when your current one expires can mean you're transferred onto a new contract, without formally agreeing to it. Fortunately, this is becoming less common, with many suppliers now choosing instead to transfer businesses onto a deemed rate 30-day rolling contract, which means you’re free to switch away with only 30-days’ notice.
How to change your business energy contract
Although you’re bound by the terms of your contract from the moment you sign it, there are certain circumstances that allow you to change certain aspects of your business energy contract.
- A change in circumstances - If the circumstances of your business have changed to the degree where your current contract is no longer feasible, such as a drastic decrease in your cash flow, then you should write to your supplier outlining the change in your circumstances. Remember to keep evidence of all correspondence with your supplier, along with the dates each was sent and any applicable evidence, for your own reference, if required.
- If you need to set up a repayment plan - If your business is in debt and it’s impacting your ability to pay for your energy, then you should write to your supplier and request a repayment plan. Repayment plans are designed to allow you to repay any arrears that have built up on your account, while paying for additional energy that you use. However, before you can be offered this as a solution, you must first provide your supplier with evidence that you are able to pay for the additional energy, while keeping up with the payments on your arrears. Your supplier will refer to your previous payment history when deciding whether you are eligible for a repayment plan. If you have missed a number of past payments, then you are less likely to be offered a plan that allows you to use additional energy.
- If you’ve been moved to a deemed contract - If you’re looking to change the terms of your business energy contract because you noticed an increase in the amount that you’re paying, then it may be worth checking if you have been moved onto a deemed contract. If you are on deemed rates (also known as out of contract rates), your supplier may have increased your monthly direct debit amounts to reflect these new rates – but this can be corrected by giving monthly meter readings.
Remember that a deemed contract is used for businesses who have not agreed a formal contract with a supplier. Typically deemed contracts offer higher rates than the market average so you want to switch away from these as soon as possible. Fortunately you are not bound by the same rules when on a deemed contract, so you are able to switch to a new deal with only 30-days’ notice.
Ultimately, if you’re not happy with the terms of your current energy contract, and you are not in debt, or struggling to keep up with payments, then it’s best to switch to a new energy deal as soon as your switching window opens.
How to switch gas and electric supplier with Bionic
If you’re wondering “What’s the best way to change my business energy supplier?” then you’ve come to the right place - the tech-enabled energy experts at Bionic can find the right deal for your business in a matter of minutes and help you with the switch.
If you’re thinking “Why Bionic?” consider that we’ve already helped thousands of businesses to
switch electricity supplier in the UK and we can definitely do the same for your business. And we help commercial customers form the UK's main price comparison websites to switch energy suppliers - including Compare the Market, MoneySuperMarket, Uswitch and Confused.com.
To start your business energy price comparison, let us know your postcode or give us a call on 0800 077 3701 and we’ll do the rest.