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Getting a utilities bargain: How to get the best deal from suppliers

When looking for a provider, whether it’s for gas, electricity or broadband, it’s natural to want a utilities bargain. Here, we examine the different ways you get the best services for the cheapest possible price.
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First things first – low prices are not likely to stay low for long. Prices are forever in flux, so you need to have your wits about you if you’re keen to secure the best utilities bargain. For example, only last month Ofgem warned energy suppliers about passing on increased costs to customers, despite rising wholesale gas and electricity prices.

If you own a very new business, or if you have recently moved to a new site, you might benefit from a short contract as you won’t yet have a full understanding of your usage requirements. After a year or so, you will know exactly how much energy you need and what your requirements are for your utilities and so on.

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However, if you have been on the same site for a while and have no intention to move, it may be better for opt for a long-term contract as you will have a clearer picture of your costs – business certainty is often worth more than jumping at the cheapest price at the time only to get caught out later down the line.

Go direct or hire a broker?

For customers that want a straight-forward, no nonsense product, such as a fixed price for a fixed term, a broker is unlikely to add any value. Whether you consume energy at a flat rate, or in peaks or troughs, the cost is simply a price that needs negotiating.

That said, brokers can add value if you want a particularly complex product or service which requires an in depth knowledge of the energy market.

However, if you decide to go down the broker route, exercise caution as there have been concerns about mis-selling in the past. A good way of checking whether a broker is reputable is to check to see if it is a member of the Third-Party Intermediary Code, which should be clearly signposted on its site.

Utilities bargain – Breaking it down

To get the best utilities bargain, you need to know exactly what you’re paying for. There are fuel deals and utilities packages, but you need to know how much you consume and how the costs break down to know whether you’re getting a good deal – and that utilities bargain you’re after.. Smart meters are great for this, as you can use them to verify your charges and negotiate more effectively.

Prices for utilities can depend upon a great variety of things, such as the company’s credit rating, location and consumption levels, so don’t rely too heavily on price comparison sites as they can’t give you the full picture.

If you are on a rolling tariff, make a note of when your contract is up so that you have the option to re-negotiate or switch to a cheaper tariff if you choose to do so. Your supplier should notify you, but it is best practice to keep track yourself.

However, if what you’re after is a no-nonsense contract that offers a combination of a fixed price for a specific period of time, be that 12 months or five years, why not allow yourself time to approach suppliers directly? It could pay dividends as your price won’t include the commission that suppliers pay to the broker or price comparison site. Why not demystify the myth that negotiating contracts is complicated and arduous?

Some do’s and don’ts

Don’t feel obliged to stick with one supplier if you’re not happy, shop around and be open and ready to switch if a better price comes along.

Environmentally friendly energy may sometimes be more expensive but does it allow you the opportunity to inform your customers about your green credentials which could be part of their decision making criteria when deciding to do business with you? There are also other ways to reduce your carbon footprint while saving you money. Make sure computers aren’t left on standby overnight or over the weekend, don’t leave lights on if nobody is in the room and use energy efficient light bulbs etc.

Finally, acknowledge that there’s no sure-fire solution to finding the cheapest tariff – you need a supplier that can cater to your individual business needs for a price that you are happy with. Aim for value for money.  The only way to find the right deal for you is to shop around, and gather as many quotes as you can. With this approach, a utilities bargain is possible.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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