Coming 2022: OfGem’s new rules for brokers

A Strategic Review of the microbusiness retail market was launched by OfGem on May 3rd of this year. This review was prompted by concerns over complexity and difficulty in accessing price information, which could be harmful to those small business owners trying to find a good deal.

Ofgem has a great deal of experience with the hardships faced by microbusiness owners. They know that an unlucky few may use their knowledge to prey on others in this unregulated industry, and because they care so much about these people’s welfare, Ofgem developed guidelines for all stages of customer interaction as well as sharp practices which should be avoided at every turn.

The first changes micro-businesses are expected to see is expected for Autumn of 2021 following the final review in early June of the same year. OfGem’s “finalised package of measures” means that suppliers will need to be more engaged with microbusinesses. This is a great opportunity for both parties: Suppliers can access an untapped market and get feedback on what these small businesses want in their contracts; Microbusinesses can help shape how they are treated by major corporations that have been largely neglectful of this demographic until now.

The final two measures will also be announced in Autumn, which are said to be intended for mandating Broker Dispute Resolution and supporting a 14-day contract cool off period, expected in January 2022.

Regardless, OfGem’s primary confirmed proposals are as follows, with the goal of being set into place in Autumn 2021;

  • Provision of principal contractual terms: This will strengthen rules to ensure that consumers receive key information about pricing and other contract information before they make an agreement. This is particularly important for customers who are microbusinesses, as it ensures they’re aware of all the basics upfront so there are no surprises later on down the road.
  • Brokerage cost transparency: Regulations are being proposed to help small business owners better understand how much they pay for brokerage services. The UK’s financial regulator has announced that it will be regulating the way in which firms charge their customers fees related to intermediation or a process whereby one party acts as an intermediary between two parties who want to either buy something from each other or sell some things of value. Regulations would require these brokers to provide specific information about what types of service and the costs associated with them on contractual documentation provided at any point during negotiating a contract – before accepting terms, once agreeing terms and again when signing documents confirming agreement is made final.
  • Broker Dispute Resolution: Introducing a requirement for suppliers to only work with brokers signed up to an alternative dispute resolution scheme. This means that in a dispute, there is an absent party to watch over them.
  • Cooling-off Period: Introducing a cooling-off period for microbusiness contracts. With this new policy, there will be up to 28 days before the contract starts where customers can reflect if they are satisfied with their terms or not without being forced to pay an exit fee.
  • Banning notification requirements: Microbusinesses, in most scenarios, will no longer be expected or required to provide notice when they decide to switch from one supplier to another.
  • Information and Awareness: Working side-by-side with Citizens Advice to generate new and updated information for microbusinesses so that they can access up-to-date guidance, advice, and communications on how the legal market operates as well as their rights.

In OfGem’s Impact Assessment Form, released on their website, they shared this intention as quoted below;

“A microbusiness who has a dispute with their supplier that they cannot resolve through the supplier’s complaints handling process can seek independent redress with the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme operated by Ombudsman Services. However, there is no mandated route available to microbusinesses allowing them to pursue independent redress with their broker.

To amend this protection gap, we propose creating a supply licence condition requiring suppliers to only work with brokers signed up to an ADR scheme. This would allow microbusinesses to raise a complaint to the ADR provider if they cannot resolve a dispute directly with their broker.

The proposed licence conditions will set out high-level requirements for an ADR scheme. The scheme provider(s) will set out detailed scheme arrangements and requirements in their terms of reference.”

The same report highlighted that complaints about third party sales have increased in the past year. In 2019, suppliers were receiving an average of around 1000 complaints per month about these activities- this was roughly 6% of all total supplier issues made known to them last year!

The number of customer complaints against brokers has been low, though, since Ofgem started monitoring their activity, but it may be time for a closer look at that data as their sources have suggested there are new reports coming through from customers who fear they’ve fallen victim to some form or another unauthorized sale.

The debate over a Broker Code of Conduct continues to rage on. Last year, the government announced plans for TPI regulation in its Energy White Paper and has now confirmed that it will be consulting with stakeholders over wider energy market reform before deciding whether or not to pursue this policy further.

OfGem also included an “Assessment of benefits” within their report that included a number of promising factors, such as;

  • Clearer Brokerage Costs: To ensure full transparency, it was proposed that suppliers be required to provide all Principal Terms of a contract in plain and intelligible language before entering into an agreement. Furthermore, customers should always receive any brokerage costs associated with their contracts for them to make informed decisions about the arrangement they are signing up for.
  • Broker Dispute Resolution Mechanism: Microbusinesses will get a sense of relief knowing their complaint can be resolved by using an ADR scheme. Additionally, brokers and suppliers alike have additional protections against legal repercussions for any incorrect or malicious assertions made during the course of business negotiations. One of the benefits of this proposal is that it will provide a third party for microbusinesses and brokers who have complaints about one another. The ADR scheme will also be able to help supply information on broker issues, which should lead to increased trust in the market as well as more confidence from all parties involved.
  • More Efficient Contracting and Switching Process: This is a proposal to introduce a mandatory 14-day cooling-off period for microbusiness energy customers. The original proposal would have given customers the right to cancel by giving notice of cancellation, within two weeks after signing their contract with us and receiving our Principal Terms in writing – but it has now been amended so that they only need this time window up until 28 days before supply starts (the first point where switch registration can be activated)

Costs

Implementing the above processes, suppliers will be expecting a cost to occur over time, and OfGem’s report estimates three priority costs for those to consider;

  1. The cost estimates for implementing the cooling-off period ranged from £100,000 to around £1.4M with a 56-day timeline and totalled an estimated total of £4.1 million among suppliers who responded in time. Suppliers estimating costs for a 180-day timeline had ranges that varied widely – they could be as low as only costing about $60,000 or up to at least over one million dollars according to three companies that did not respond on time but later provided their estimate (totalling approximately £2 billion). Changes have also been made to the original version of the programme in order to change the pressure on costs.

  2. Suppliers have expressed concern that a 14-day cooling-off period could impact their supplier price hedging strategies. While some suppliers are considering the possibility of having to factor in the probability that microbusiness customers may utilise this time frame to exit contracts, others believe it will not affect them at all.

Concerns were raised by some suppliers over whether or not they would need to consider if there’s increased risk for business loss due to an extended customer’s right of withdrawal during the first two weeks after the contract initiation date (the ‘cooling-off’ period). This is important as exit may then be likely to happen after a supplier has already purchased the product needed in order to power their contract, resulting in a loss.

  • The costs surrounding a Broker ADR Scheme have also been highly discussed, and difficult to consider due to the different natures of each ADR Scheme and what type of dispute/s it may handle. A broker ADR scheme will need to recover costs associated with setting up the scheme, ongoing fixed running costs, and ongoing variable running costs.

These costs will include creating the scheme’s rules and documentation, IT system costs, broker onboarding costs, recruitment training. We anticipate recovering set-up costs should form part of annual subscription fee’s and that it would take no longer than a three-year period to fully recover them.

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Who Is The Cheapest Gas Supplier?

What matters most to you when buying anything?

Is it the quality of the craftsmanship? The ease of purchase? Incredible salesmanship?

It’d be nice to say yes to any of these things.

But we humans care about one thing more than anything else. Money.

Saving money is on par of equal importance with gaining money – it is an incredibly strong guiding hand of consumer purchasing decisions.

The reality of the matter is that price holds the most influence over what we buy, when we buy, and how much we buy. All the other stuff is just an added bonus.

So, with this in mind, who is the cheapest gas supplier in the UK?

Influencers of price

There are around 60 different energy suppliers in the UK – it would be wonderfully simple if they all just offered one price for all of their customers from every walk of life. But they don’t.

Energy suppliers seem quite happy to have an incredibly complex pricing system to calculate how much individual customers should pay to the penny. All in the name of squeezing out all of the profit they can.

But what are the sort of things that influence the price of gas contracts?

  • Location
  • Consumption
  • Date of Contract Start
  • Broker Commission
  • Standing Charges
  • Unit Price
  • Meter Costs
  • Installation Costs
  • Maintenance and Servicing
  • ‘New Customer’ Status

The cheapest price (by circumstance, of course)

Your personal circumstances will play a huge part in who the cheapest energy supplier will be. Those in rural Wales will find the prices for gas entirely different to those in London.

We decided the best way to demonstrate the insanity that is the UK energy market is by concocting the table below. Using all of the data available to us and using real genuine prices, we have found the suppliers that are strongest in three main categories.

The table is divided into three sections: the supplier at hand, the area of dominance, and the description of the particular area they excel in. We’ve completed a search for a small business customer in London, and from the top ten cheapest gas suppliers found the strongest for each category.

SupplierArea of DominanceDescription
Dyce EnergyAnnual CostThis is the estimated total cost for the year.
Osso GasUnit PriceThe price per unit of energy consumed.
Yorkshire Gas and PowerStanding ChargeFixed cost per day of supply.
Based on a small business in London with AQ of 75,000 kWH, paying by DD, start date of 01/09/21

Simple, right? Not really.

Luckily, we have access to supplier prices to analyse like this… Most customer don’t.

The only tool that comes close to being able to offer this type of insight is dedicated price comparison websites. This is why so many commercial customers turn to brokers for help.

A change to any single one of those variables underneath the table will result in an entirely different batch of prices to calculate.

Are smaller suppliers worth the risk?

What risk?

This idea that smaller suppliers are somehow ‘riskier’ than the big six is somewhat baseless.

The only thing that smaller suppliers are known for, is being significantly cheaper than the big six…

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Figures from June 2019, Source: choose.co.uk

Smaller suppliers may actually offer the cheapest price for your business gas! It may seem a little fishy how small suppliers can beat the prices of vast national companies… But it’s not!

How do they manage these prices then?

  1. Much lower overhead costs
  2. Exempt from expensive obligations (Like the £140 Warm Home Discount)

Value added features

There is much more to finding the best gas contract for your business than just price these days. Because of the incredible competition in the marketplace now, it has opened the door for other features to think about. Some other thoughts to include in your decision-making process are:

  • Payment method
  • Type of plan
  • Is green energy important to you
  • Length of contract
  • Exit fees and cancellations

Source: choose.co.uk

How to find the cheapest gas supplier, for you

The entire premise of this article is based on a slight trick question.

There really is no ‘cheapest’ gas supplier in the UK. It is circumstantial.

Plus, the only thing that really matters to customers is that they get the best price possible.

So, the original question should have been something more like ‘How do I find the cheapest gas supplier?’

The best way to be certain you are getting a great deal on your business gas is to head to –

www.energybrokers.co.uk/gas/procurement

With over twenty years of experience in energy procurement, Energy Solutions are wonderfully situated to provide the market insight that customers crave.

Get in contact today, to see how much money you could save on your next gas contract!

Google Snippets

How to find cheapest gas?

The best method to finding the cheapest gas contract is to contact an energy broker or energy procurement expert. Price comparison sites are great, but do not compare to the market knowledge of brokers.

Cheapest gas UK?

Due to the incredible variability of gas contract prices in the UK, there can’t really be said to be a ‘cheapest’ supplier. It is worth contacting a broker to assess the cheapest gas contract for your business.

Who is cheapest gas supplier UK?

There is no one cheapest gas supplier in the UK unfortunately. Price varies massively by customer, so it is worth speaking to a broker to find out what contract is best for you.

What Online Comparison Sites Don’t Tell You

In the UK customers have the right to choose their energy supplier and, if they are not happy with their services, they can switch to a different one. Each supplier offers a range of different tariffs, so finding the best contract for your business’s needs can be challenging.

In order to find the best prices, most people resort to price comparison websites.

Do you know how they work?

The main task of price comparison is, as the name indicates, comparing the prices of various goods and services from numerous companies. If you’re looking for a new energy supplier the of course price comparison websites will look at available unit rates and fees related to energy contracts.

In theory, this should allow you to get the best deal there is.

In practice, however, finding the most competitive rates and energy contracts is not that easy. Even if you pick the deal that the price marked as the cheapest, you might find yourself overpaying for your electricity. Here you can find out why that’s the case.

What are price comparison sites?

Price comparison sites exist for all kinds of services and they are very popular in the energy market. They allow customers to get quotes from various suppliers and compare their offers on just one page. They save customers the hassle of having to visit many suppliers’ websites separately.

Some price comparison websites allow you to set filters and preferences that correspond to your individual needs as an energy customer. It normally takes between 10 to 15 minutes for a price comparison website to come up with the results of the search.

If you use several comparison sites, you might notice that each of them gives different results. That’s why it’s advisable to run a few searches and see whether there is a supplier that’s considered the most competitive by all of the price comparison websites.

Advantages and Disadvantages of price comparison sites

Using a comparison site is often the first thing people do when they’re looking for a new supplier or a new energy deal. While there are some clear advantages that come from using them, there are also several drawbacks. Have a look at the table below to find out what they are.

advantagesdisadvantages
Price comparison websites can help you save money by showing you the cheapest options

Price comparison sites are convenient as you can access them wherever you are

There are many price comparison sites you can use
Price comparison websites do not show you every supplier on the market

Many price comparison websites charge feesPrice comparison websites primarily look at prices and overlook other important aspects of energy contracts

Price comparison sites do not offer additional advice and expertise

Price comparison websites will not guide you through the process of switching providers or changing energy contracts

So what online comparison sites don’t tell you?

Using a price comparison site to get a general overview of what the prices are like is not a bad idea, but you should not rely on the results to make the decision. There are many additional aspects that need to be taken into consideration when choosing an energy supplier or an energy contract. These include:

  • Are you better off choosing fixed or variable energy rates?
  • How long should you sign the contract for?
  • Does the supplier offer flexible contracts?
  • Are there any exit fees?
  • Does the supplier have an efficient Customer Service team that you can contact easily?
  • Is the supplier environmentally friendly?
  • Does the supplier charge a standing charge?
  • Is the supplier trustworthy?

These things are crucial to determining whether an energy contract is competitive. Even if a price comparison website shows you the deal with the lowest rates, sometimes it might not be worth committing to it.

What should you do instead of using price comparison websites?

If you really want to make sure that you’re getting the best energy deal, you should forget about price comparison websites!

Instead, you should seek advice from an energy broker.

Do you know what energy brokers do?

Brokers assist customers with comparing energy prices and energy packages offered by various suppliers. They have a great knowledge of the energy industry and they often form partnerships with the suppliers so they help businesses get the best energy rates available. At the same time, brokers are impartial. They do not act on behalf of any supplier so you can be sure that the deals they show you are actually the best deals in the market.

In addition to helping you compare energy prices, brokers will walk you through all the different aspects of energy contracts to make sure they match the needs of your business and give you the flexibility that you need. Thanks to energy brokers, you don’t have to worry about hidden charges or getting stuck with a bad energy contract for several years. And that’s something that can happen if you only use a price comparison site!

Once you have chosen a contract, an energy broker will help you take care of the paperwork and will assist you with making the switch. This way you don’t have to worry about anything and can focus on other, more important aspects of running your business.

Reasons to use an energy broker

Are you still not convinced that using an energy broker is a good idea that can save you time, money, and effort? Have a look at the list of main reasons to use a broker.

  1. Unbeatable expertise – energy brokers know the energy market very well so they know what prices are currently the best. They offer expert advice that you cannot get from a price comparison website.
  2. Personalised experience – energy brokers help you not only find the cheapest energy contract, but also the one that is the best for your business.
  3. Making the choice easy – even after you run a search using a price comparison website, you might feel overwhelmed by the choice of numerous suppliers. Talking to a broker makes choosing an energy deal easier than ever!
  4. Making sure you get the best contract – price isn’t the only thing that makes a contract attractive. An energy broker will explain to you all the aspects of the energy deal that need to be taken into consideration and will help you pick the most competitive one.
  5. Help even after making the switch – even after you sign a contract with the supplier, you can reach out to your broker and ask them for help should you have any problems with the provider. Similarly, if you’re considering switching providers, a broker can help you decide whether it’s a good decision.
  6. Comparing numerous suppliers – brokers work with many suppliers and will show you deals from all the ones that are worth looking at.
  7. Negotiating energy prices – energy brokers work closely with energy suppliers so sometimes they might be able to negotiate a better price for you. Often, they can offer you energy deals that you wouldn’t find on any comparison websites.
  8. Helping you manage multiple sites – if you need to get energy deals for several business sites that use different services and have different energy needs, running a price comparison online for all of them can be timely. Brokers will help you move all the sites to just one supplier and get the best rates for all of them.
  9. Caring about the clients – seeking advice from an energy broker allows you to talk to the team in person. Energy brokers care about building relationships with their customers and they strive to provide them with the best service possible.
  10. The possibility to bundle all supplies – if you’re using a price comparison website to find deals for several commodities, you will need to compare contracts for electricity, water, and gas separately. Energy brokers can bundle all the supplies to find one contract that will cover them all, making paying for energy easier for you.

So should you use an energy broker instead of a price comparison website?

Yes! This guide has shown those price comparison websites do not provide enough information for customers to choose a deal that will be the best for their business.

Even the best comparison sites cannot provide you with advice as detailed as the one from an energy broker. If you only use a comparison website, you might find the cheapest energy deal, but you might soon realise that other aspects of it do not make it competitive at all!

Seeking help from an energy broker can help you avoid that and actually get the best energy contract. Here at Energy Solutions, we want to help our customers save money and time. We have over 20 years of experience in the energy industry, so whether you’re looking for gas, electricity, or water supply, you can trust us to get you the best deal.

If you want to see for yourself how useful using an energy broker can be, get in touch today by calling us on 0131 610 1688!