Energylinx for Business News
October 17, 2017
A price cap on energy bills has been proposed by the Prime Minister, Theresa May. This is a welcome relief for many domestic customers stuck on expensive standard variable rate (SVR) tariffs, but little thought has been given to the five million small to medium businesses who aren't protected in the same way.
UK SMEs are the backbone of the British economy and last year's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) highlighted the profit margin for selling electricity to small businesses is higher than to domestic customers (8% vs 3%) and that the SME gas sales generated a 10% profit.
In the last 3 months, wholesale electricity prices (one of the main drivers of tariff pricing for business contracts) have risen by 15%. The report by the CMA last year also highlighted that artificially high prices have allowed the "Big Six" energy suppliers to overcharge SMEs by £500m a year.
Just like domestic customers, small businesses are rolled onto products similar to SVR tariffs at the end of their fixed price deals and shockingly, in some cases, these tariffs can be between 50 - 100% higher than acquisition prices.
Currently, the business energy market isn't as regulated as the domestic and until the recommendations from the CMA report have been fully put in place, it will remain this way. However, recent changes to the industry mean that all business energy suppliers MUST make their current out of contract rates available on their websites.
The only way to stop your business being rolled over onto an unnecessarily expensive contract is by comparing what energy price plans are available for your business when you enter the last 120 days of your current contract. Once you find a supplier and price plan that you are happy with then you need to let your current supplier know in writing that you will be moving at the end of your current contract.
Energylinx for Business offers an impartial comparison and switching service. We compare over 30 energy suppliers so you can be sure you will find the right one for your business. You can arrange a transfer online or by calling 01259 225400.
Posted on October 17, 2017 at 03:40 PM
September 29, 2017
Due to time restraints, almost 60% of UK SMEs struggle to shop around for the best energy deal. This is according to new data from the energy supplier, Utilita.
Whilst the domestic energy market is seeing a significant number of customers switching suppliers for a better energy deal, the commercial market isn't. Despite the fact, the CMA's 2016 report into the energy market found that as much as 80% of the UK's small businesses are overpaying for their energy.
The findings, in an independent study commissioned by Utilita on the trials facing UK high street, reveals fewer than half of micro-businesses (46%) believe they are getting a fair deal with high tariff rates and excessive payment arrangements.
The survey reveals that only 41% of businesses review their energy at least once a year and a further 20% only review their deal every two to five years - with one in ten admitting they have never shopped around for a better deal!
The Competition and Markets Authority has enforced rules that energy suppliers have to stop locking businesses into expensive, automatic rollover contracts and need to make it simpler for them to compare the cheapest energy prices. The CMA believes that these changes could help micro-businesses save up to £180 million a year.
Do you have a small business? Energylinx for Business offers a free energy comparison service. If you find a cheaper deal for your energy supplier you can arrange a switch through our online platform or by calling one of our advisors on 01259 225400.
Posted on September 29, 2017 at 01:44 PM
September 6, 2017
Energylinx for Business is delighted to announce the launch of a new product from British Gas directed at micro-business customers, British Gas Lite.
The British Gas Lite product is ideal for customers that:
- Want to keep their costs low
- Would like instant help when they need it
- Desire an account managed entirely online
- Want accurate bills rather than estimated bills
British Gas developed Lite with owners of small businesses in mind and the view that it's important to keep energy spend to a minimum and bills low.
Lite can only be used by businesses with a smart meter. If you don't have a smart meter then British Gas Lite will fit one free of charge.
The smart meter will send British Gas Lite an accurate meter reading every month. This means customers get exact bills every time and will only have to give British Gas Lite a meter reading once when they open the account. British Gas Lite is only available to micro-businesses that opt to pay by direct debit.
To open a Lite account, Energylinx for Business will organise your transfer and confirm to British Gas Lite that you're working from a single site with a single meter.
British Gas Lite is now available on all of our online platforms. Use our free and impartial comparison service to find out how British Gas Lite ranks for your business. You can also get a quote for your business energy by calling one of our advisors on 01259 225400.
To find out more about British Gas Lite visit their website.
Posted on September 6, 2017 at 12:49 PM
August 17, 2017
Small business in England are struggling to understand the new non-household retail water market in England and need more help, according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).
CCWater received six times more inquiries from businesses in the first three months since the market opened in England in April, compared to the same period in 2016. More than 90% of contacts came from small and medium sized businesses.
In line with expectations, complaints made by businesses to CCWater also increased. Many of these have been put down to "teething problems", which is expected to be "swiftly resolved" as the market develops.
More than half (54%) of the 370 complaints received from businesses were related to billing and charges, consistent with previous years. A majority of complaints (80.5%) were about retailers, followed by wholesalers (17.8%) and TPIs.
CCWater believes competition has generated some new types of complaints, with a small number of firms struggling to find information about retailers and their tariffs.
There were also some delays in resolving operational issues, including low water pressure and leaks, caused by poor communication between retailers and wholesalers.
CCWater said they had to intervene to help some household customers who were wrongly classified as being eligible for the non-household market.
Tony Smith, CCWater's Chief Executive said:
"In terms of complaints made to CCWater, there is little to suggest that customers have so far encountered any major problems with switching or the services they receive from retailers.
"It's also clear from the customer contact we've received that many smaller businesses need more help getting to grips with the new market. Retailers and water companies need to work harder to ensure customers are well informed so they can exercise their choice with confidence."
More than 36,000 businesses switched their retail water supplier in the first three months since the market opening.
Ofwat Chief Executive Cathryn Ross said:
"It is early days but we are seeing some encouraging signs with new retailers, new deals and crucially, customers saving money and water. There have been more than 36,000 switches and around 60% of those have come from low water users - more likely to be SMEs. That is significant because we want to make sure this market works for all customers, not just the very large companies with specialist procurement divisions.
"More needs to be done, however; comparing offers is still not as easy as it needs to be and we have told retailers they must remedy this."
When the water market was opened up to businesses in England, Energylinx for Business partnered with WaterPlus to provide our customers with more money saving opportunities.
We can also find the most competitive rates for your business energy online or by calling 01259 225400.
Posted on August 17, 2017 at 01:13 PM
August 10, 2017
Since Energylinx for Business wrote their last article on CMA price transparency, the legislation and the requirement for energy suppliers to show energy prices on their websites for micro-business customers has gone live. The deadline of June 26th has come and gone, so the big question is how many suppliers have complied with The Energy Market Investigation (micro-businesses) Order 2016?
The good news is that most suppliers have made an effort to display their prices on their websites.
The bad news is that around 70% of suppliers that Energylinx for Business has reviewed, aren't yet displaying the 'Required Pricing Information' in the prescribed format. So, there's still quite a bit of work to be done!
The big thing that most suppliers are failing to do is to properly report the "the total estimated cost for the duration of each contract, calculated from the Primary Information and (b) as applicable, the cost of each of the following components (i) Standing Charges, (ii) Unit Rate(s), and (iii) all other associated charges".
Maybe it's just a mistake and energy suppliers will, eventually, comply with the Order. But, to achieve true price transparency, Energylinx for Business believe there are still a few things that the industry need to address:
- Average Pricing (p/kWh)
If a consumer enters a cost estimate for their energy 'Primary Information' then unless all suppliers are using the same average pricing to derive consumption, the consumption derived will be different on different supplier sites. This could lead to the customer thinking that "Supplier A" is offering a cheaper product than "Supplier B" simply because the derived annual consumption is different.
- TPI Product Options
A lot of suppliers work with Third Party Intermediaries (TPI) and as such may display prices on their websites that relate to these parties. If the TPI themselves do not display prices on their own websites (use a call centre approach) then how does the customer know whether or not they can get the product that the supplier has said is available from that TPI? Surely TPIs should be displaying product prices (the same product prices) in the same manner as energy suppliers in order to achieve true price transparency?
Price transparency is, undoubtedly, a good thing for the industry and will help more micro-business owners shop around to get the best deal possible. We hope that at the end of this year, we will be able to update this article again and hopefully report back that all energy suppliers are fully compliant and that more and smaller business owners are switching to gain better deals.
If you want an online solution of your own business (Broker or Supplier) then Energylinx for Business would be delighted to hear from you.
Posted on August 10, 2017 at 03:28 PM
July 28, 2017
Last Monday we welcomed a work experience student from Hutcheson Grammar School. Sally joined us for an invaluable week-long placement, that seen her shadow different departments and helping with a variety of tasks from call auditing to blogging.
As Sally's week was about to end, we decided to ask her a few questions to see how she had found it.
What have you got up to this week?
On Monday and Tuesday I worked in customer services for Energylinx for Business. I helped upload applications in to the system, as well as updating business owners on the status of their request to switch energy providers.
Wednesday and Thursday I joined the admin team on the domestic side of the business.
On the final day of work experience I was in the call centre. I was given a crash-course in compliance and listened to a few live calls.
What have you learned?
Having never worked in an office before I didn't realise how many different jobs go into making a functional company. I learned that even though everyone does different jobs it is often necessary to ask for help from someone in another department to solve a problem.
Out with the company I never realised that different businesses often work together to provide a worthwhile service to the customers. If one of these companies is not working efficiently then all the others can be thrown off track - patience is one of the most important things when trying to deliver a positive customer experience.
What does it mean for the future?
I feel this experience will help me as I hope to work in biomedical research, perhaps in a hospital lab, and I now have a deeper understanding of how organisations work and how different departments must work together to keep things running smoothly.
Sally has a bright future and we loved having her here last week. Everyone at Energylinx and Energylinx for Business would like to wish Sally luck in 6th year at high school. If you change your mind on biomedical research I'm sure we could find something for you here!
Posted on July 28, 2017 at 09:07 AM
July 18, 2017
New research carried out by Gazprom Energy has discovered that businesses are starting to look beyond the price tag when searching for a new energy supplier, but price competitiveness and transparency remain the most important issues when choosing a new energy company to supply them.
Surveying 200 businesses throughout the UK, Gazprom Energy found that SMEs are becoming more concerned with the whole package that an energy supplier offers. 64% believe it's important that the supplier shows a good understanding of the business and its need to win the deal - highlighting the growing importance of the level of customer service an energy supplier can provide.
A massive 95% of those surveyed stated that price competitiveness was influential when choosing a new supplier and 81% claimed that advice from a third party could also strongly influence their decision.
Energy suppliers also need to be more innovative in terms of how they deliver their service and allow customers to take more control. Access to better technology to understand and control usage has gained increased interest from UK businesses with 70% saying they would use an online portal to engage with their energy provider to manage their contracts more independently and 43% would like a live chat service for a straight-forward way to contact their supplier.
Businesses have become more inclined to shop around to get the best deal for their energy, instead of taking the obvious or easy option with 61% of those surveyed happy to use separate suppliers for each fuel if it meant securing a better deal. Only 20% insisted on the same supplier for everything.
Energylinx for Business can provide companies with a straight-forward, online energy comparison and switching service. In less than 2 minutes you can run a quote that will give you the price plans of over 30 energy suppliers. If you would like to discuss the price plans or different suppliers, we have a team of energy advisors that can help you talk you through the comparison process - just call 01259 225400.
Posted on July 18, 2017 at 08:51 AM
July 6, 2017
The latest global cyber-attack that affected businesses around the world is a stark reminder of the growing risks from cyber-crime that companies face, and unfortunately, small businesses can be particularly vulnerable to this type of crime. The ransomware is currently being discussed as a variant of 'Petya', which has similar traits to 'WannaCry' that caused havoc with the NHS network in May.
So how should small companies protect themselves? The first stop should be the National Cyber Security Centre website and Twitter feed to ensure you stay up to date with the latest advice. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) offers its members a cyber advice line and cyber insurance protection, which could prove invaluable in the event of an attack.
FSB recently advised members of other free and simple steps that they can take to reduce their risk of contracting all types of malware including ransomware, of which WannaCry and Petya are just two:
- Ensure software and devices are kept up to date and all available security patches are installed. Upgrade devices to their latest operating system version where possible.
- Have a robust and regular backup solution which allows recovery from a malware outbreak. Having an offsite or cloud backup is also invaluable in the event of a natural disaster or accident such as a flood or fire.
- Raise awareness of cyber security risks and promote vigilance within the company. Employees are often the last line of defence against attacks that have bypassed technological barriers and a simple action such as not opening an email attachment may prevent a huge impact to the business.
Beyond ransomware and other types of malware - such as viruses, spyware, Trojans, and worms - small businesses are susceptible to other types of cyber-crime - one of the fastest growing areas of crime globally. These include phishing and spear phishing emails, whaling, and CNP (card not present) fraud.
'Invoice fraud' phishing attacks are becoming all too common in the small business sector. This is where a business email account is illegitimately accessed and used to send, or modify, customer invoices with altered payment details. Such crimes often cause thousands of pounds of lost revenue and have a high success rate.
A cyber-crime incident costs a small business victim nearly £3,000, and takes more than two days to recover from. According to a recent report FSB published, a staggering seven million cyber-crimes are committed against smaller businesses in the UK every year.
Don't take risks and make sure staff are also savvy when it comes to threats. Small businesses should always ensure they're following the best expert advice and have specialist cyber insurance in place.
Posted on July 6, 2017 at 02:33 PM
June 27, 2017
New measures to stop microbusinesses being locked into expensive rollover contracts were put in place today.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded a two-year long investigation in June 2016. They found that around 45% of micro-businesses across Britain were on their energy supplier's costly default tariffs.
One of the CMA's recommendations was that suppliers have to stop locking small companies into automatic rollover contracts and that they have to make it easier for them to compare the cheapest energy prices. They have to do this by ensuring information is clearly available on the supplier's website, or via a link to a price comparison website.
Energy firms are now required to comply with the CMA's recommendation and had until yesterday to make to get the information live on their websites.
Dermot Nolan, Ofgem Chief Executive said:
"This is a big change in the way the market works.
We'll be working closely with suppliers to make sure they give micro-businesses clear information on the prices they offer in line with the regulation. We are considering what further steps could be taken to protect and help these business customers engage in the market as part of our wider programme to make sure all consumers - business and domestic - get a better deal."
The CMA expects the remedies to help micro-businesses save up to £180 million a year.
Smaller firms will also be able to leave more expensive auto-rollover default tariffs without having to pay exit fees.
As advocates for transparency and fair pricing, Energylinx for Business welcome these changes. You can find the best supplier for your business online or by calling one of our advisors on 01259 225400.
Posted on June 27, 2017 at 03:15 PM
June 26, 2017
According to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), over half of small businesses with EU workers are worried about accessing people with the right skills (59%) or growing their business (54%) post-Brexit.
FSB's latest report, 'A skilful exit: What small firms want from Brexit', shows one-fifth (21%) of small employers currently have EU staff. Nearly three quarters (72%) of these small firms recruited all of their EU workers when they were already living in the UK. And the vast majority of small firms (95%) have no experience using the UK's points-based immigration system to recruit non-EU workers.
The research highlights the need for small firms to have continued access to labour and skills from the EU post-Brexit. It finds that small businesses with EU workers mainly employ mid-skilled staff (47%), such as care and construction workers, mechanics and office managers. If Brexit creates additional barriers to recruiting EU citizens, small firms that employ EU workers would consider moving their business abroad (13%), reducing operations (13%), or even closing down (8%).
FSB had called on the Government to guarantee, as soon as possible, the right to remain for EU citizens in the workforce. Last week Theresa May announced that, subject to further negotiation, EU nationals resident in the UK for more than five years will be offered residency. However, the Prime Minister said that this offer is dependent on EU states guaranteeing UK residents the same rights after Brexit. Some European ministers have criticised the UK's offer, claiming that it doesn't go far enough. So one year after the vote to leave the EU, it is still unclear how EU nationals will be affected by Brexit.
Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said:
"There is real concern among small firms with EU staff that they will lose access to the skills and labour their business needs to survive and grow. EU workers are a vital part of our economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors, and filling jobs in an already tight labour market. From packers, to mechanics, to graphic designers, small employers need to be able to hire the right person, for the right job at the right time.
"Securing the right to remain for EU workers in the UK must be a priority. It's also crucial small firms are given time after the UK leaves the EU to prepare for the new immigration arrangements. There can't be a sudden cliff edge preventing small firms from accessing the workers they need. This means having sensible transitional arrangements first, followed by the phased implementation of a new immigration system."
Over half (56%) of small businesses with EU employees are concerned about being required to enforce new immigration rules post-Brexit. As the Government defines its new approach to immigration, it is crucial that small firms aren't left battling layers of red tape to recruit the workers they need.
It's also important those small firms who carry out cross-border business with the EU (30%) are not disrupted by Brexit, and that any future immigration arrangement allows for small businesses to carry out assignments and projects in the EU.
Special consideration needs to be given to businesses in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK which has a land border with another EU member state. Tens of thousands of people commute over this border on a daily basis, and any restrictions would have a direct impact on small firms' ability to recruit and retain the workers they need.
Mike Cherry continued:
"Restrictions on immigration will be felt more acutely by small businesses. Most small firms don't have HR departments to deal with complex immigration procedures or the time and resources to deal with swathes of additional paperwork or extra costs. They are least well-placed to cope with losing staff or dealing with a burdensome application process from the government to retain and hire new staff. So it is vital that the Home Office engages with small businesses as early as possible on the design of a new immigration system to ensure affordability and ease of use. Otherwise, as our research shows, the consequences for small business growth and survival could be severe.
"Brexit negotiations must also take into account those small firms who have important business relationships with the EU. Brexit will not work for small business if there are delays or difficulties in doing business across the EU border."
Posted on June 26, 2017 at 08:59 AM