Businesses are in the dark on energy purchasing as new research shows that nearly half (47%) have never switched suppliers or tariffs, with one in five not knowing that switching is an option for them. Three-quarters of SMEs – which equates to approximately 3.9 million businesses – believe they pay too much for their utilities and almost the same number (75%) understand there are savings to be made.
Following recent consumer switching campaigns, the study, published by one of the UK’s leading energy and water consultancies, Utilitywise, explores what businesses know about energy switching and found that despite feeling they pay too much, there is a lack of understanding about the options or perceived barriers that stop them taking action.
Although one in five (20%) businesses switched in the last year, many others avoided moving to new suppliers and tariffs due to the belief it is not worth the hassle (28%) and the return would not outweigh the time it takes to organise (20%).
When it comes to reasons why business owners are reluctant to explore switching, many believe it will take them too much time and effort:
46% fear costs and fees attached to transferring to a new supplier
An increase of paperwork and forms to fill in makes 46% of businesses nervous
Over a quarter (27%) even believe that switching will cause a disruption to their energy supply and that they may be left for a period of time with no gas or electricity
Andrew Richardson, Deputy CEO of Utilitywise, said: “There has been much in the news about domestic customers switching to get better energy deals, which is positive in terms of building a competitive market place and educating consumers about energy. Businesses can do the same and there are real savings to be made. However, it is daunting and more complicated for commercial enterprises to navigate switching as they may have a number of sites, meters and different contracts – this is where working with Utilitywise can help.
“Our teams are experts and can advise on the best approach for energy management - our flexible purchasing team has saved our customers over £1.2m in the last 12 months with an annual average of £55,000, while our fixed contract team is saving hundreds for customers on a regular basis. We can take the hassle out of switching and help businesses manage their energy better.”
Over half of businesses (52%) reported that a feeling of taking the power back into their hands would encourage them to switch energy suppliers, on top of a financial motivation. A saving of £100 - £200 per year would be enough to encourage them to switch and over a quarter already believe they would save up to £300 if they were to switch in 2015.
David Riches, executive director for commercial, trade and marketing from the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Many Chamber members are small business owners and have to juggle long-term planning at the same time as running the day-to-day operations of their company. Understanding their energy overheads is an important element in managing their business costs effectively. Our research, conducted amongst thousands of Chamber business members across the UK, tells us that many businesses need help when they look to cut their energy costs by switching suppliers. Our Affinity Partnership with Utilitywise was established with this in mind.”
David Strong, treasurer and company secretary from Cavalcade of Costume, said: “I have been impressed by the trouble-free and efficient way Utilitywise has organised the switch of all our contracts to a better deal. I like their personal service as a one-stop utilities provider and how they respond promptly and efficiently to any concerns.”
For those businesses that have saved or foresee saving money through switching, 39% would instead invest in better equipment for the organisation, 26% would inject the cash into additional benefits for the staff and 22% would focus on office upgrades.
In the past year, Utilitywise has switched over 80% of new customers to a different supplier to get the right tariff for their business. Furthermore, over half (51%) of existing customers were switched to either a new supplier or tariff during last year, which demonstrates the need for ongoing utility management to ensure that customers always have the right deal for their organisation.
Before working with Utilitywise, 28% of customers did not think switching would be worth the hassle, 23% did not have time to do it and 16% found it too confusing. Yet, 68% of the Utiliywise customer base believes switching helps to make the market more competitive and 72% thinks it makes suppliers work harder to meet the customer’s needs.
London is the most ‘switched on’ city when it comes to understanding the options for switching suppliers, whilst Liverpool has the highest majority of non-switching businesses. Businesses in Cardiff are most vocal about thinking they pay too much for their utilities at 87%. North West businesses based in Manchester (62%) would be more inclined to switch if they were supported by a trusted adviser with a proven track record.
Businesses can learn about the energy options open to them through switching and the benefits this can bring by visiting: www.utilitywise.com/no-hassle-switching/