By Daniel Hunter

Businesses are lacking the skills required to pay commercial bill, according to research by energy and water consultancy, Utilitywise.

The study found that 1 in 5 don’t understand their commercial energy bill and 60% of businesses were unable to identify that 'E or A' readings mean 'estimated' or 'actual', whilst a quarter (25%) did not understand the term unit rate.

The issue is not confined to micro and small businesses of 1 to 49 employees; almost the same number (1 in 6) of those employing 50 to 249 staff reported that they too don’t have the skills they need to make sense of their regular statements.

Those with the biggest issues included business people in Sheffield (60%) and Liverpool (40%) who said they didn’t understand the information provided on utility bills, and businesses in the manufacturing sector where a third (33%) confessed their ignorance.

The data also reveals that as many as 2.19 million businesses never, or only occasionally, check their energy bills. This is despite the fact that three-quarters of SMEs believe they pay too much for their utilities. Whilst 23% of business decision makers cite lack of time for the reason they don’t double check the bill is correct, a further 23% simply trust that the total is likely to be accurate. Yet, Utilitywise’s own information shows over 60% of businesses are reliant on estimated bills.

Andrew Richardson, Deputy CEO of Utilitywise, said: “Businesses need help to navigate the energy market. That starts with understanding your statements. The terminology can be confusing, but it’s important to get a handle on it because it impacts a business’ bottom line: if you don’t know that you’re paying an estimated bill you can be in for a nasty surprise."

Utilitywise’s top tips for businesses include:

· Making sure you are up to speed with what all the terms and jargon on each utility bills means
· Checking the actual meter readings with the bills you receive
· Understanding your energy consumption across the business and this as a percentage overhead
· Checking bills month-by-month for trends, administration errors and to manage effectively
· Working with experts to help you manage your utility bills more efficiently