Business electricity and gas suppliers are offering small and medium sized business consumers a bad deal by hiding behind the contract small print.

Price is the driving factor when negotiating a new business electricity or gas deal but don't fall into the commodity trap as suppliers will catch you out.

Business Electricity and Gas suppliers in the UK are hiding behind the supply contract small print to the detriment of their customers.

Supply contracts for small and medium sized business electricity and gas customers are heavily weighted in favour of the supplier as many of the contract terms hidden in the small print are very ambiguous and will undoubtedly catch the consumer out if they are not explained before they agree to the contract.

Hidden in the small print is information about the cancellation clauses, price variability conditions, advanced termination timescales and how long the contract lasts for. These clauses are crucially important when a business customer takes out a contract or switches business electricity or gas provider.

One of the most important questions the customer needs to ask before they agree to the business energy contract is how long the price is fixed for and what type of contract is being offered?

Most business electricity and gas supply contracts for small and medium sized business customers in the UK are "evergreen", which means that the contract will continually renew unless the customer serves termination a specified number of days before the fixed price term renewal date.

This price term is a very important factor. What should happen is that the business electricity or gas supplier should write out to the customer a certain period of time before the price deal expires and offer them a new deal for a future contract term.

This sounds reasonable but the business energy renewal notice in many instances is disguised to look like junk mail so that the client does not act on the information and just files it, only realising that their business electricity or gas costs have significantly increased when they receive their next bill. They in turn call their business energy supplier who then informs them that their contract automatically renewed because they did not hear back from them in time.

A number of customers are also reporting that they did not even receive the renewal price notice before their business electricity or gas contract was renewed - but most suppliers "deem acceptance of the notice being received by the client on it being sent by the supplier". When the customer queries this very onerous clause the supplier usually presents a print out from their computer screen showing a date when the notice was sent by their mailing department. This does little to appease the client when they did not receive it - it begs the question why the business electricity or gas supplier does not contact the client to make sure they received their renewal notice safely.

Although the contract price is the "carrot" when negotiating a new business energy contract please ask the company the following questions before agreeing to sign up:

1. How long is my business electricity or gas price fixed for?

2. What type of contract am I being offered - is it an evergreen contract that will assume renewal if I do not serve termination?

3. How many days termination notice do I have to give you before my fixed price expiry date?

4. What method do you use to offer me renewal prices prior to the end of my fixed price expiry date - post, email or telephone?

5. Can I cancel the contract mid term and how much will it cost?

Julian Morgan
Commercial Director
Energy Advice Line

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