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Energy bills: Hospitality businesses renew calls for same support as domestic customers

By Peter Ruddick , 12-Apr-2012
Last updated the 12-Apr-2012 at 10:27 GMT

Related topics: Business, Venues, People, Trends & Reports, Legislation, Restaurants, Hotels, Pubs & Bars

Hospitality businesses have renewed calls for extra support on energy bills and dealing with utility suppliers after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced it was backing Ofgem proposals to help domestic customers.

The Government has announced more help for consumers on energy bills and to get the best deal with suppliers but the plans do not yet cover business customers

The Government has announced more help for consumers on energy bills and to get the best deal with suppliers but the plans do not yet cover business customers

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this week announced the DECC would adopt Ofgem proposals to protect consumers which requires suppliers to inform customers of the best tariff annually and to inform them of their best options when a fixed term contract is coming to an end.

However spokespeople for both the DECC and the energy regulator Ofgem confirmed to BigHospitality the announced support would not currently extend beyond domestic customers.

Fox & Badger

Ahead of the 2012 Budget last month , the Forum of Private Business had called for the Chancellor to announce energy bills help for small businesses in the statement. The Forum argued volatile world energy prices were impacting everyone but small businesses did not currently enjoy the same protection as individual consumers , especially on roll-over contracts.

Speaking to BigHospitality after the DECC announcement this week, Suzanne Hobb, owner of the Fox & Badger pub in Bath, said she thought it was high time the same support was granted to businesses, particularly those in the hospitality industry which were already struggling.

Hobb suffered a recurring problem for several years with a leading energy company which became the main supplier to the pub after roll-over contracts. The problems extended to incorrect billing, electricity supply and meter reading problems and Hobb said there had been very little help available.

"Nobody actually took control of the problem and had the tenacity to actually see it through and find out what was happening. They would get so far and be absolutely baffled and pass it on to somebody else," she said.

Ahead of the Budget, Phil McCabe, senior policy adviser at the Forum of Private Business said: "Mounting utilities costs hits hotels and other energy-intensive hospitality businesses hardest." 

Protecting businesses

Last year Ofgem announced a series of proposals to reform the energy market to protect businesses which were put out to consultation. The proposals included reforming unfair sales practices - currently the regulator has no powers to take enforcement action on suppliers that only deal with business customers.

An Ofgem spokesperson confirmed to BigHospitality the consultation process had now finished and it is hoped the DECC may take the proposals on board in the near future in the same way as for domestic customers.

Smart meters

Earlier this week British Gas announced it was now installing the 'world's most advanced' smart meter which could help inform businesses on how to save money on electricity bills by showing how much energy was still being used outside of business hours for example.

Government plans to replace old meters and rollout smart meters to all households and businesses is expected to begin in 2014 but Hobb said her smart meter had not had a big impact on energy use and had just helped to confirm bills were correct.

"We are running a pub, we need to keep the freezers on and we need to keep the chillers on. It just helps to let us know how much we owe and how much I have got to pay," she said.

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