The Utility Regulator recently carried out research with 500 business consumers to assess their experience of Northern Ireland’s energy market. One of the main findings was that only 37% of those surveyed have switched electricity supplier in the last five years and only 31% have switched gas supplier. With savings available when switching supplier, the Utility Regulator and Consumer Council for Northern Ireland are encouraging business consumers to check their bills and review their energy spend.
John French, Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator explains further:
“Our consumer protection role spans all energy customers, both businesses and households. The aim of this research was to increase our understanding of the business energy market. We want to ensure that our regulation both enhances consumer protection and makes sure that the market operates in the best interests of consumers. We also wanted to learn of any issues around how the market was operating.
“Although our research found low levels of businesses switching suppliers, those customers that had switched, were satisfied with the experience. There is also a large proportion of consumers with little knowledge of their energy supplier. Given these research findings, we want to encourage business consumers to actively review their energy spend and avail of the savings that can be achieved through switching supplier or changing their current tariff.
“We are aware of the difficult circumstances businesses are operating in and appreciate that for some, especially smaller businesses, they may not have the time or resources to regularly review their energy usage. We have therefore partnered with the Consumer Council to encourage businesses using less than 50,000kWh of electricity or up to 73,200kWh of natural gas per year to avail of their energy price comparison tool.”
Noyona Chundur, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused financial difficulty for many of our small businesses, charities and voluntary sector organisations.
“By using the Consumer Council’s free, independent and interactive energy price comparison tool, and switching energy supplier, the average business owner could save £344 on their electricity bill and £257 on their gas bill per year. These savings will be especially welcomed at this time when many are facing substantial financial pressures.
“Our price comparison tool takes the hassle out of searching for the best energy deal by enabling small businesses to compare the tariffs from the eight electricity suppliers and five gas suppliers across Northern Ireland in one place.”
John French continued:
“We understand that this continues to be a worrying time for businesses and households. If you are worried about being able to pay your energy bill or have any concerns about your electricity or gas supply, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible. Your supplier will be able to tell you what support they can provide and the options available to you.”
The Utility Regulator plans to carry out this research every two years.
Businesses can start using the energy price comparison tool by visiting the Consumer Council’s website (Switching Energy Supplier | Consumer Council). There are also a number of free resources including a ‘Switch On’ guide for small businesses and not-for-profit organisations to help them understand their bills and be more energy efficient.
Further information on the support available to energy customers is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/covid-19-energy-debt-advice and the within the consumer protection section of the Utility Regulator’s website www.uregni.gov.uk. A number of agencies can provide free and independent advice, including Advice NI and Money and Pensions Service. There is also more information on support for natural gas customers from the new naturalgasni.com website.
For further information, please contact Adele Boyle on 07787 279584.
- The research was carried out in August and September 2020 and measured business consumers’ views on engagement, experience and attitudes towards the energy market in Northern Ireland.
- Agricultural business customers were not included in the survey due to their different tariffs and set-up.
- Savings figures based on the average use of 8,300kWh for electricity on the popular T031 rate (for SME’s that operate from 9-5pm) and 20,383kWh for gas (in the Greater Belfast area). Electricity savings £340.34 for the variable unit rate / £343.51 for the Fixed unit rate. Natural gas savings of £256.71.
- Consumers and businesses can also get in touch with The Consumer Council for free independent advice by calling Freephone 0800 121 6022 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Non domestic water and sewerage customers are encouraged to liaise directly with NI Water if they are experiencing any difficulties in paying their bill. https://www.niwater.com/your-bill-and-our-charges/