Switching your small business to a new energy supplier

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

If you work from home

If your business is based from home, you'll usually be a domestic energy customer instead of a business customer. Check how to switch if you’re a domestic customer.

Switching your energy supplier could save you money but it can take time to organise. If you’re a microbusiness you might get extra protections when switching. Check if your business is a microbusiness.

You'll need to check some details about your current contract, including:

  • the terms of your current contract - including the end date

  • your standing charges and energy costs per unit - these are shown in kilowatt hours on your bill

  • your annual energy usage

If you’re on a fixed-term contract your supplier should let you know your options about 3 months before the end of your contract. If they don’t, you can complain to your supplier.

You’ll also need to check if you can switch and then compare different suppliers' prices - including the supplier you already have.

It’s best to compare prices and agree to a new contract as soon as you take on new premises, or near your current contract’s end date, to get a better deal.

Important

If your energy supplier goes bust 

Don’t switch tariff or supplier until your account is moved to the new supplier. You might find it harder to get any money you’re owed if you switch before this happens. 

Read our advice about what to do if your energy supplier goes bust.

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau if you're not sure if your supplier should be treating you as a microbusiness.

Check if you can switch

You'll normally be able to switch to a new business energy supplier if:

  • you're not tied in to your contract - it's important to check when your contract ends 

  • you're on a tariff you didn't choose to be on, for example if you've taken over a new premises - you'll be on a 'deemed' tariff

  • the fixed term of your contract has ended

If you’re on a deemed tariff it’s worth switching - these are usually the most expensive tariffs. You usually won't need to pay a fee or give notice to switch.

If the fixed term of your contract has ended 

Your contract might give you a 'roll-over period' to agree a new contract. Check your contract to see how long the roll-over period is - it can't be more than 12 months. If you're not sure, contact your supplier to check.

If your contract didn't give you a roll-over period or the period has ended, you'll be on an 'out-of-contract' tariff.

If you're in a roll-over period or on an out-of-contract tariff, it's worth switching - they're usually very expensive. You won't need to pay a fee or give notice to switch.

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau if you think you should be able to switch but your supplier won't let you.

If you can't switch to a different supplier

Your supplier might still let you move to one of their cheaper tariffs - it's worth calling them to check.

It's worth calling your supplier to ask if they can offer you a better deal. They have to tell you if you can move to a cheaper tariff - but you might have to sign a new contract.

Make sure you understand all the rules about any new tariffs they offer you. You'll usually have to agree to sign up for a fixed period of time - most business energy contracts last between 1 to 3 years.

You should check:

  • how long the new contract is for

  • how much you'll pay per unit of energy and if the price can change

If you're struggling to pay your bills it's worth asking if your supplier can take other steps to help - for example, by giving you a smart meter so your bills are more accurate.

Don't feel pressured into agreeing to anything over the phone - if you're not sure, ask them to send you the details.

If you can switch you should compare what they've offered with other suppliers' prices.

If you can't switch and your supplier won't offer you a better deal you should check what to do if you're struggling to pay your energy bills.

Check if you can pay less with a new supplier

It's best to compare as many different suppliers' contracts as possible.

You'll normally need to speak to suppliers to compare prices and contracts. If you don't have much time to do this yourself you could use a price comparison website or an energy broker to find you the best deal.

You'll need to give information about what your business does and how much energy you use.

It's worth trying to negotiate with suppliers and brokers - mention other deals you've been offered and ask if they can beat them.

Contacting suppliers directly

Make a list of suppliers to contact for quotes.

It's best to call them to find out what prices and contracts they can offer you. You can find their contact details on their websites.

Tell them you're interested in switching and ask what prices and contracts they can offer you. If you've been offered a cheaper price by another supplier it's worth saying - you might be able to get a better deal.

Ask them to send you the full terms and conditions of any contract they can offer you.

Using energy price comparison websites

It can be hard to find fixed prices online because business energy prices depend on your situation. Most business energy comparison websites will ask you for some details and then contact you to discuss prices.

You'll usually need to give your contact details online and then speak to someone on the phone.

You can find a list of authorised price comparison websites on Ofgem's website.

Using an energy broker

If you use someone to negotiate your business energy contracts with suppliers, they're your broker. 

You'll normally have to pay a broker. Before you ask them to find you a deal, check how they'll charge you. You might have to pay a one-off fee when you sign up, or pay as part of the cost of your energy while you're in the contract. The broker has to explain their charges to you before you agree to a contract. They also have to confirm these costs in writing within 10 days of you entering into a contract.

Your broker must be registered with the Energy Brokers Dispute Resolution Scheme - check if a broker is registered on the Ombudsman Services website.

You can agree to use a broker over the phone. This agreement is binding - you should always ask for information in writing before agreeing to a contract.

When you work with a broker, you normally have to sign a ‘letter of authority’. This is a document that lets the broker act for you. For example, your broker might look for a cheaper energy tariff and switch it for you by using information about your current energy consumption. 

Before you sign a letter of authority, you should read it carefully so you know what your broker can do.

If you think a broker has misled you or added on fees you didn't know about you can complain - you might be able to cancel your contract or get your money back.

You might get a better contract without using a broker and contacting suppliers directly instead.

Once you’ve got quotes from a broker you can go back to your current supplier to see if they can offer you a better deal.

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Advice Direct Scotland's energy advice service and explain what's happened.

Advice Direct Scotland energy advice

Freephone: 0808 196 8660

Website: energyadvice.scot

Comparing contracts

When you're comparing the contracts you've been offered, make sure you check:

  • how much you'll pay per unit of energy and if the price can change

  • if there are any extra costs - for example, maintenance charges

  • how long the contract will last for - and if you'll have to pay a fee to cancel it before it ends

  • how much notice you'll need to give to end the contract

  • if there's a 'cooling off' period where you can cancel or switch if you're not happy - most business energy suppliers don't offer one but it's worth checking

If you've used a broker to find you a deal make sure you consider their fees when deciding whether to sign up to a contract. For example, it might be a one-off charge that you pay your broker or it might be added to your energy bill. The broker must give you this information in writing.

If you’re agreeing a contract

Always ask suppliers to send you a written contract so you can check the terms and conditions before you agree to anything.

Business energy contracts are 'binding' if you agree to them over the phone - this means you don't need to sign anything to be tied in to the contract.

Switching

If you've decided to switch you should tell the company that already supplies your energy as soon as possible.

If your fixed term is coming to an end you can arrange to switch - as long as you haven’t agreed a new contract. If your fixed term has already ended you can tell your supplier you don’t want to extend your contract - you can then switch. You won’t need to pay your supplier a fee to switch and you won’t need to give notice.

You shouldn't have to give notice to switch unless you've agreed to an 'evergreen contract' - this is a contract with no end date. If you've got an evergreen contract your supplier might ask for notice of up to 30 days.

After you've done this, agree to your contract with the new supplier and confirm when they'll take over supplying you with energy.

It's important to take accurate meter readings on the day you switch and send them to both companies so you pay the right amount.

You'll be switched to your new supplier within 5 working days. If you want to switch on a  specific date, contact your new supplier to ask if you can do this. For example, you might want to do this if you’re on a fixed-term contract and don’t want to switch until it ends. 

You won't get a cooling-off period when you switch. Only switch when you’ve looked at all the information and are clear on the terms of the contract. If you change your mind you might have to pay a termination fee.

Contacting your supplier about a problem

If you’re having a problem with your energy supply, call or use webchat to contact your supplier straight away. You can get their contact details from their website.

Tell them what’s happening, and what you want them to do about it. They might be able to sort it out then and there. You should note down the:

  • date and time you get in touch

  • person you speak to

  • problem you talk about

If your supplier doesn't solve your problem while you're on the phone or webchat, send them an email or letter repeating what you said. This means you’ll have a record of your conversation with your supplier.

When you write to your supplier include your account number and any case reference numbers you have. This makes it quicker and easier to sort out your problem.

Complaining to your supplier or broker

You might want to complain to your supplier if for example they:

  • won't fix a problem with your meter or energy supply

  • keep billing you the wrong amount

You might want to complain to your broker if for example they:

  • misled you about a contract they sold you

  • weren't clear about their fees

  • charged you more than they said they would

The first thing you should do is gather any supporting evidence. What you’ll need depends on your issue - for example you could:

  • take photos of a faulty meter

  • get together copies of unusual bills

  • gather notes from phone calls you’ve had

  • look for emails from your supplier or broker about the problem

You’ll also need details of your complaint and your energy account number to hand. You can find this on a recent bill.

When you’re ready, you can complain over the phone, or in writing by email or post. It's a good idea to complain in writing so you can keep a record.

You can usually find your supplier or broker's complaints procedure on their website.

What happens next

Your supplier or broker will get in touch with you if they need any more details about your complaint.

They should send you a ‘decision letter’ or ‘letter of deadlock’ within 8 weeks. This explains how they’ll deal with your complaint.

Complaining to the energy ombudsman

You can complain to the energy ombudsman after complaining to your supplier if you:

  • have a letter of deadlock and aren’t happy with the decision

  • didn’t get a decision letter or letter of deadlock within 8 weeks

If you’ve had a deadlock letter you can complain to the ombudsman within 12 months of getting it. If you didn’t get a deadlock letter you might be able to complain to the ombudsman after more than 12 months.

You can complain to the ombudsman on the Ombudsman Services website.

Page last reviewed on 30 September 2022