ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) is calling on Energy Minister Chris Huhne to protect local shops against the unfair practices it claims are employed by energy companies.
Under current regulations, energy companies can back bill retailers and other small businesses for six years’ worth of incorrect bills, even when the supplier is at fault, the ACS said. While domestic consumers have little protection against the rising costs of energy itself, they are protected by a code of practice that restricts the period of a back bill to 12 months.
Last year, Consumer Direct received over 2,000 phone calls from small businesses that had been hit with unexpected bills costing several thousand pounds, reports the ACS.
ACS has written directly to Mr Huhne and has called on its members to write to their MP and highlight the scale of the problem to the Secretary of State, urging him to extend the domestic code to business customers.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Local shops are at the heart of their communities and play a pivotal role in the economic recovery. By continuing their abusive practices and tying retailers into unfair contracts, energy companies are threatening the livelihood of these retail businesses.”
“We are calling on Mr Huhne to recognise local shops and other small businesses need the same protections afforded to domestic customers and to stop the abusive tactics that put hard working retailers at risk of closure.”
Hannah Mummery, energy policy manager at Consumer Focus, said: “We recognise back-billing is a major concern for retailers and we have sympathy with any business asked to pay back large sums of money through no fault of its own. This is precisely why we have been pushing Ofgem and energy suppliers to tackle this issue with a code of practice which will protect business energy customers.”