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SMEs Say Energy Bill Rises Are Unfair, Half Will Swap Provider

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Half of SMEs will switch energy providers to get a better deal this year | Alamy

New research from business community group Ingenious Britain, in conjunction with business experts MakeItCheaper.com, has found UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are angry, frustrated and have lost trust in their energy suppliers.

Why? Because of the continually rising prices, which they believe to be unfair.

Just 36% of the 500 UK SME decision-makers said they trusted their energy provider – less than any other provider of business services including: banks (50%), insurance providers (51%), solicitors (69%) and accountants (77%).

When asked why they felt this way, the SMEs said recent accusations of price fixing (58%) and the continued announcement of record profits amongst energy companies (57%). And if allegations regarding price-fixing were proven, SME business owners and managers would overwhelmingly seek compensation – 84% said compensation should be provided and 77% said they would seek a claim.

Other key findings emerging include:

  • Relentless price rises: 79% SME decision-makers have seen a hike in their energy bill over the past year and a similar proportion 80% believes this rise will continue over the next 12 months
  • Bills are unfair: Three quarters claim their energy prices are unfair and disproportionate, with 36% believing they could be getting a better deal from their existing supplier
  • Barriers to switching: Just over half (51%) are planning on switching in the next 12 months, with just under half (44%) believing that switching supplier is a difficult and complicated process
  • Government could do better: 71% of SME decision makers believe the government is not doing enough to help SMEs get a better deal from energy providers. Only 25% of those searching for help used government resources, with the majority looking to the private sector for help, either via price comparison sites (49%) or third party business advice sites (23%)

Mark Moore, founder of Ingenious Britain, said in a statement that SMEs had found themselves at a tipping point.

"This research shows widespread malaise and discontent amongst business owners and managers across the UK. 2012 was a bad year in terms of reputation for energy companies, with Libor-style pricing allegations in the news and the announcement of record-high profits, so it's no wonder the business community is frustrated."

Jonathan Elliott, managing director of MakeItCheaper.com, added: "While I don't think we're about so see a Class Action launched, we do expect to see more businesses voting with their feet. The 51% of businesses looking to switch in 2013 is higher than the 46% that the regulator, Ofgem, has reported to have ever switched, so it looks like this will be the year that hard-pressed SMEs finally get even with their suppliers."

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Filed by Charlie Thomas
 
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