Over the past few years, we have been campaigning for higher standards from energy companies when dealing with small businesses like convenience stores.
Part of this work has included a parliamentary inquiry, a visit to Downing Street, numerous press releases, news stories and coverage in titles like Retail Express, and hours and hours of meetings with Ofgem, the energy regulator.
In that time, there have been several notable achievements, including the widening of the microbusiness definition to include far more stores within its scope, voluntary codes of conduct that the big six suppliers signed up to, and a ban on rollover contracts to stop retailers being charged out-of-contract rates.
Despite the progress that has been made to date, there was one area Ofgem didn’t look likely to budge on and that was back-billing. This is when a retailer has been getting estimated bills from their energy supplier and then discovers a huge bill when the supplier gets a correct read from the meter, and can run into thousands of pounds.
We have made the case repeatedly to Ofgem that retailers have no more expertise on energy than the average consumer, so should be subject to the same protections, and in the latest consultation from the regulator, there are finally proposals to implement a 12-month limit on back-billing.
Retailers should be able to choose their energy supplier on the basis of which one provides the best prices and the best customer service, not which ones are signed up to follow minimum standards of conduct.
We hope Ofgem’s proposals come into force as soon as possible, so retailers can spend less time fighting with energy companies over backdated bills and more time investing in their business for the future.
Read more on why smart energy is a smart investment.