By Daniel Hunter
New research launched today (Friday) by business community Ingenious Britain, in conjunction with business money-saving experts MakeItCheaper.com, finds UK small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) at an ‘energy tipping point’, angry and frustrated with their suppliers.
Business owners, managers and key decision-makers across the UK have overwhelmingly stated that they have lost trust in their energy providers and are fed-up with continually rising prices which they believe to be unfair.
Just 36% of the 500 UK SME decision-makers responding said they trusted their energy provider — less than any other provider of business services including: banks (50%), insurance providers (51%), solicitors (69%) and accountants (77%).
This lack of trust and negative perception is driven by recent accusations of price fixing (58%) and the continued announcement of record profits amongst energy companies (57%). The research shows that, should allegations regarding price-fixing be proven, SME business owners and managers would overwhelmingly seek compensation — 84% said compensation should be provided and 77% said they would seek a claim.
Other key findings emerging include:
· Relentless price rises: Eight out of 10 (79%) SME decision-makers have seen a hike in their energy bill over the past year and a similar proportion (80%) believes this rise will continue over the next 12 months.
· Bills are unfair: Three quarters (75%) claim that their energy prices are unfair and disproportionate, with 36% believing that they could be getting a better deal from their existing supplier.
· Barriers to switching: Just over half (51%) are planning on switching in the next 12 months, with just under half (44%) believing that switching supplier is a difficult and complicated process.
· Government could do better: 71% of SME decision makers believe the government is not doing enough to help SMEs get a better deal from energy providers. Only 25% of those searching for help used government resources, with the majority looking to the private sector for help, either via price comparison sites (49%) or third party business advice sites (23%).
“Energy providers are losing the trust of their business customers, particularly SMEs," Mark Moore, founder of Ingenious Britain, said.
"This research shows widespread malaise and discontent amongst business owners and managers across the UK. 2012 was a bad year in terms of reputation for energy companies, with Libor-style pricing allegations in the news and the announcement of record-high profits, so it’s no wonder the business community is frustrated.”
Jonathan Elliott, managing director of MakeItCheaper.com, added: “Whilst I don’t think we’re about so see a Class Action launched, we do expect to see more businesses voting with their feet. The 51 per cent of businesses looking to switch in 2013 is higher than the 46 per cent that the regulator, Ofgem, has reported to have ever switched** and so it looks like this will be the year that hard-pressed SMEs finally get even with their suppliers."
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