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News

Sunday Times Article Calls Out Bad Energy Brokers

An article published in the Sunday Times has highlighted some of the worst behaviour perpetrated by dodgy energy brokers, including cases that have lead to the ruin of small businesses. Most business energy brokers are honest, and work hard to help their non-domestic customer find the best deals on their commercial gas and electricity. But the industry image has been damaged by an influx of new brokers using unsavoury business practices. Written by Enterprise Editor Peter Evans, the article includes two stories about businesses that have been stung by unscrupulous business energy brokers. Janet and Alan Ward had run a guest house in Whitby for 15 years before deciding to sell up to a young couple. The buyers eventually backed out of the sale, but not before a broker convinced them to switch the guest house to a new supplier. The Wards later received a demand for £700 for six weeks of electricity – significantly more than they had paid previously – and had no choice but to pay, even though they weren't the ones who agreed to the contract. Steve Challinor, the owner of two Staffordshire supplements shops, also agreed to switch his supply with a broker. When Challinor refused to pay two bills for £700, bailiffs arrived at his door and three years later, the shop closed. The newspaper claims that stories like these are becoming a more common, with many new energy brokers using aggressive sales calls, misrepresentation and mis-selling to snag small businesses. Even Utility Helpline has received hundreds of calls from wheeler-dealer energy brokers offering to find us the best deal on our gas and electricity. Some callers even claim to be from big suppliers like British Gas, something which we know is a barefaced lie. The Sunday Times piece goes onto compare today’s non-domestic energy market to “the bad old days” of the mortgage market before the Financial Conduct Authority stepped in to control mortgage brokers in 2004. It also prints calls from honest energy brokers and Citizens Advice for better regulation of non-domestic energy brokers.

How to Avoid a Bad Energy Broker

Any company can set up as an energy broker and the lack of regulation has attracted hundreds of new and unscrupulous operators to the industry. In one of our recent blog posts, we identified ten red flags that could indicate a dodgy energy broker. Below, we talk about some of the biggest warning signs. One of the key things to look out for is cold calling. Most businesses that we speak to have had the experience of energy brokers calling them out of the blue. And the service standards rarely match up with what clients expect. Poor energy brokers also rarely provide any clarity on their fees and will be reticent about offering references or contact details of previous clients. The best way to avoid getting stuck with a bad apple is to properly grill the broker before signing up with them. Make sure you find out about their fees, their relationships with suppliers, their process and how much power you have over the final decision (hint – the final decision should always be left up to you, never give a broker the power to agree a contract on your behalf).

Why Use a Broker?

We often hear horror stories about dodgy brokers ruining businesses. It might be tempting to avoid the risk entirely and not use a broker, but there are some real benefits to using a third-party intermediary.

Save Time and Money

Good energy brokers will compare energy prices in line with your business needs. They visit dozens of gas and electricity suppliers on your behalf and dig deep to find the very best deals.

Expertise

Energy brokers are industry experts. You will get significant benefit from using an impartial consultant telling you how the market relates to your business energy needs.

Monitoring

When your business energy contract expires, there is a good chance that you will roll over onto your supplier’s most expensive tariff. A good energy broker will stay in touch throughout your contract and will get in touch when it is time to find a new deal.


Published by Utility Helpline on (modified )