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10 steps to choosing the right business energy broker

Mis-selling is not just a domestic problem…

With the recent action taken against Big 6 energy supplier SSE for mis-selling to domestic customers, thoughts turn to the effects on the business energy market. Here we provide a 10-step guide to what you can expect from a reputable broker.

Unlike in the domestic market the proliferation of energy brokers or TPIs (Third Party Intermediaries) is great. That is good news for those businesses who are engaged with reputable, proven and transparent intermediaries but a potential source of mis-selling for those hoodwinked by nefarious selling tactics from the less reputable entities.

As a result a business energy customer has to be on the lookout for two potential sources of mis-selling. As in the domestic market, the direct sales teams of energy suppliers are not beyond employing a trick or two to entice you into an uncompetitive contract. But the apparent brokerage saviour riding over the hill could be a TPI from hell too.

The key is to choose your TPI with care, following a few basic steps to ensure your broker, supplier and contract worries can be a thing of the past in one action.

Many business customers rely on the claims of business energy brokers to find them the best deal for their business energy, however, what many consumers may not realise is that brokers, like suppliers, are capable of squeezing extra profit from their customers if you’re not careful in your choice.

All reputable business energy brokers should be signed up to the Third Party Intermediary (TPI) Code of Practice, sponsored by energy supplier E.ON. This code audits the behaviour of its participants through a set of guidelines that ensure a high standard of service for customers.

If a broker is found to be working outside of these guidelines and not meeting the standard set by the TPI Code, they could be removed from the Code and risk their reputation in the market and will have the rights to sell supplier products and tariffs removed. Not a good position for a broker!

Utilising the services of a reputable energy broker is always advised to ensure that you are getting the best deal to suit your business requirements, that you are getting independent energy advice enabling you to save time and money through not having to call individual suppliers themselves (and being sold an uncompetitive rate).

Given the benefits, choosing the right TPI for your business can be a minefield, get it wrong and it can be costly. Get it right and the best energy deals for your business are just a call away.

Here are our top ten tips on choosing an energy broker:

  1. Website – If you are searching for a broker, check their website to see if they are signed up to the TPI Code of Practice – it must tell you clearly and have a link to the Code. If they aren’t signed up, do not use them. A simple first step. We, at Business Juice, are members of the code; in fact we were founder members and are proud that one of our company board was appointed as Code Manager in 2013.
  2. Independent – Always establish the number of suppliers the TPI works with. If they only work with three or four then you are not going to get a fair view of the market or the best deals available. Choose a broker who represents the market through a whole range of suppliers including the Big 6 and smaller business-only suppliers. Ideally you want to work with a broker who has the entire market in their portfolio. Happily Business Juice do, so you can be sure whenever you contact us we have the entire market to search from to secure you the most competitive contract possible.
  3. Clarity – Your broker should be ‘honest, accurate and clear’, that’s obvious, but anyone can say such things in their sales material, the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Ask your broker:
    • Do they require you to sign a contract with them?
    • Do they charge you directly for the services they offer?
    • Do they disclose the level of commission they may receive from energy suppliers for placing your contract?
    • If their answer to any of these is a no then don’t go there, they are not a broker that is going to put your business’ needs first. Happily, here at Business Juice we would never require you to sign a contract with us or levy a direct charge on you for our services and we will always let you know the level of commission we may receive from an energy supplier on request.
  4. No pressure – There are a few deadlines you need to be aware of when negotiating your business energy deal such as your contract end date and your termination date. These are critical to providing you with freedom of movement at the end of your contract. But that is it, know these and the opportunity will follow. Visit our dedicated supplier pages to understand your suppliers’ termination policy. Unfortunately however unscrupulous brokers use these critical dates to pressurise customers into needless actions. If a broker calls you and suggests they are from an official sounding body such as “the national metering company” and use high-pressure sales techniques to push you into making a decision, then simply walk away. Be warned though, they will incessantly call you. Your best defence to such tactics? Turn a deaf ear to them and contact Business Juice, once you are our customer you can be safe in the knowledge that you can tell the other ‘broker’ that you are being correctly represented in the market by us. The calls will miraculously stop!
  5. Annual estimates and comparison – Before you agree to an energy supply contract through your broker, they should always provide you with a forecast of your new annual bill. They should also compare your new contract with your current one and highlight any savings or increases as well as comparing to other offers in the market for your supply. If they don’t or won’t do this then walk away… you simply won’t know what you’re signing up to.
  6. Letters of Authority – Energy suppliers accept brokers in the energy market because customers want them, but as you can imagine, suppliers would prefer a situation where customers are ill informed meaning negotiation of contracts is limited. Even though suppliers accept the existence of brokers they don’t necessarily make it easy. As a result a good, honest broker will ask you to sign an LOA or Letter of Authority. You can find yours on your suppliers’ dedicated page on website. An LOA enables your broker to act on your behalf in negotiations with the energy suppliers. Make sure the Letter of Authority makes very clear what you are giving them permission to do and if you are in any doubt, ask for clarification. If you are not happy, again walk away.
  7. Contract and confirmation – The modern way of securing a business energy contracts is a verbal agreement that is made over the phone, recorded and stored by both your broker and new energy supplier. You can request, and should be granted, access to the recording but in the normal course of events you must receive a confirmation email of your contract agreement shortly after your call. If you do not receive this then you must contact your broker and demand to know why.
  8. After sales – Sadly it is a fact that your transfer to a new supply can sometimes not be smooth. Your new supplier may reject your application for incomplete or inaccurate records or even credit reasons. Your current supplier can object to your transfer for similar reasons e.g. debt on your account or your business still being in contract. If this happens your broker should contact you straight away and work with you to actively resolve the issue. This should involve them potentially offering alternative deals that are better suited to your position. If no help is offered you should walk away and visit a more reputable broker, failure to do so could land you on expensive out of contract rates.
  9. Your privacy – Your broker should adhere to the Data Protection Act. In addition you should expect them to be signed up to the TPI Code of Conduct and offer their own customer charter where they make clear exactly the level of service and obligation they are offering to you. If any of these elements are missing you are well advised to walk away.
  10. Complaints – As part of their customer charter your broker should have a simple, efficient, effective system for handling complaints and feedback. If there is no customer charter in evidence or any clarity over their policy for handling complaints, you can be safe in the knowledge that they aren’t the broker for you and walk away. It may sound a minefield but rest assured once you’ve found a broker you trust that can and will be a long-term relationship. A bit of homework at the start of your relationship can lead to significant cost and time savings for your business over many years to come.

Here at Business Juice, we and our customers, are confident that we are unparalleled in our service offering and would welcome the opportunity to introduce you to a new way of securing your energy contract or providing you with a safe haven from the worst aspects of the energy industry.

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