Ofgem has suggested that backbilling for microbusinesses should be cut to one year, while energy supplier would like it to be three years.
In an open letter to Lawrence Slade of the Energy Retail Association and Gareth Evans of ICOSS, Sarah Harrison of Ofgem gave feedback on what enegy supplier are doing about the issue of backbilling for microbusinesses.
Backbilling is the practice of rebilling a customer when the supplier made a mistake on their business energy bill.
The Energy Retail Association and ICOSS have been working with consumer groups to come up with their own set of 'draft standards' on the issue.
In the letter, Ms Harrison said that Ofgem welcomed the constructive approach that was being taken and added that the development of minimum draft standards was ‘significant progress’.
However, one area where Ofgem seemed to challenge the draft standards was over the time limit on backbilling.
The draft standards say that suppliers will limit backbilling to three years “where a micro-business customer has taken all reasonable steps to avoid a back-bill”, while Ofgem has suggested that the limit should be one year. (Although the letter did state that Ofgem welcomed “any moves by suppliers towards this shorter time period”).
The letter also suggested that these draft standards should not be restricted to microbusinesses and should be applied more broadly for non-domestic customers.
Another interesting request from Ofgem was for suppliers to publish all the deatils on non-domestic backbilling cases "in the interests of transparency". They suggested that the information should be published on suppliers' websites and should include the number of back-bills issued over the previous year, the time limits associated for each of these and the overall cost of each bill to the customer - which could make for interesting reading.
For more information on backbilling visit our partner site Business Juice.
Leaving a few lights on around the office now and again can’t make that much difference to your business electricity bill can it?
Well, according to the Carbon Trust, it really can.
According to it’s latest report, businesses in the UK could collectively save up to £700 million a year just by being more energy-efficient when it comes to lighting. That’s a lot of money (and carbon), so a few simple changes in behaviour, or installing some energy-efficient lighting technology could have a bit impact on your overheads.
Home retailer WJ Aldiss apparently made annual cost savings of an incredible £20,000 by replacing lighting in its shops and distribution centre. They replaced T8 fluorescent light fittings with T5 high frequency fittings, and also introduced low voltage downlights.
The Carbon Trust has published a new guide offering information on how to choose the most energy-efficient and high-performance lighting. You can download the guide here and here are some top tips to get you started:
- Install effective lighting controls. With the right lighting controls you’ll get the right light in the right place and at the right time. It’s essential not to needlessly light your premises if you want to save electricity.
- Don’t rule out a more thorough refurbishment. It may seem difficult or like a hassle to replace your existing wiring, but the money you could save might outweigh the cost and inconvenience.
- Think maintenance. Keep your light fixtures clean and in good working order - especially the reflectors and panel diffusers - to make sure the lighting performs as it was designed.
The Carbon Trust is running a free webinar on how to significantly reduce running costs and improve the lighting in your building on 14th December at 12pm – you can sign up here.
Choosing the right premises for your small business is crucial to its profitability. Here we explain how to find the right location for your company and make sure you get value for money...
Choosing business premises: questions to ask
Whether you intend to lease or buy, you need to consider these points to make sure you find the most suitable premises for your business:
1. What kind of location do you need?
Different types of business need different locations. A bar or restaurant may rely on passing trade and town centre frontage, for instance, but many other businesses – from bookkeeping to specialist car parts – will not lose customers by selecting an affordable out-of-town locations. There’s no point paying a premium for property advantages you don’t need.
2. How much floor space do you need?
You can use a piece of graph paper or a simple computer program to work out how many desks will fit in a particular space. As a rule of thumb, you should allow about 15 square metres (160 square feet) per person. Some businesses may need high ceilings or reinforced floors if heavy machinery is being installed.
3. Do you want to buy, lease or opt for serviced offices?
Most small businesses opt for leased premises to start with, to avoid the capital outlay of buying. (See Buy or lease? below).
4. What’s your budget?
5. What’s the market like?
Compare different costs of premises to find the best deal. Ask around other businesses and contacts for their tips and recommendations.
6. Do you need planning permission?
Some businesses require planning permission to use premises for what they do. If your business is particularly noisy, for example, you may need to find out about restrictions on noise emissions.
7. What facilities do you need?
Think about the facilities you require like lighting, toilets, a kitchen or boardroom. Consider whether you need parking for staff and customers. If your business gets lots of lorry deliveries, for example, you may need good access.
8. Are the premises future-proof?
Think ahead to your long-term aims and whether the premises will be large enough for when you expand or take on more staff. If you are likely to expand rapidly, moving again could be costly.
9. Are the premises safe and lawful?
Check the premises comply with fire regulations, disabled access and other health & safety legislation.
10. When can you move in?
Time is money, so check how quickly you can move into the new premises and how long fixtures and fittings might take to install. Think about when the best time to move would be for your business: you don’t want to be between premises at your busiest time of year.
Buy or lease?
Buying premises is obviously the most expensive option as you will need a commercial mortgage and plenty of capital to pay out for a deposit, legal and surveyor’s fees. On the other hand, buying is a significant investment and gives you the flexibility to expand and alter your premises to suit your business.
Serviced premises are an alternative to leasing. These are offices complete with desks and phones where the building operator takes responsibility for all the services like Internet access and reception. Serviced offices tend to be pricier than leases but have several advantages: they’re very flexible, you can buy in office services only as you need them, and you can project a professional image, with mail and calls handled, even when there’s only one of you.
Most small businesses opt to lease premises to avoid such large capital outlays, however.
When looking at leases, always check:
- the length of the lease;
- any break clause that allows you to terminate the agreement before the end of the lease;
- whether you are allowed to sub-let the premises;
- any restrictions on how you use the premises;
- whether you are responsible for repairs and maintenance;
- when and how often the rent is to be reviewed.
See last week's business skills post, on business plans and forecasting.
The next post in the series choosing a business bank account.
The Feed-in Tariff rate is being cut in half, but there's still time to get the higher rate - just.
On the 12th December 2011, the government will cut Feed-in Tariff rates for both domestic and small business installations by 50%, from 43p per kWh to just 21p per kWh.
As a result, people who want to take advantage of the current rate are rushing to have their renewwable energy technology installed before the deadline. As a result, many solar panel installation companies in particular are struggling to meet the increased demand.
Renewable energy supplier Good Energy has reacted to this tariff deadline by opening its Chippenham offices for the weekend on the 10th and 11th of December, so that more people can register before the closing date which is at midnight.
Anyone interested in getting small-scale solar electricity generation for their home or business will be able to visit the office over the weekend to submit their applications in person, or call in and get any last minute advice over the telephone. Those who have installed projects will also be able to pop in to the offices and sort out any outstanding paperwork they may have before the deadline passes.
Some businesses feel that the government’s new reduced tariff will mean it will now take longer for them to earn back their investment and a lot less cost-effective for anyone interested in protecting the environment by installing solar panels.
- The draft Energy Bill: a five-minute summary
- 60% increase in business energy costs as average turnover falls by 6%
- Business week in brief: 11th May 2012
- Ed Miliband and the Queen talk energy
- Interview with Steve Fitzsimons of new business energy supplier, Hudson Energy
- Business week in brief: 4th May 2012
- The see saw of corporate profit
- Business week in brief: 27th April 2012
- EDF Energy’s Business Customer Commitments: four key pledges
- Businesses buck the trend when it comes to smaller energy suppliers