The Energy Advice Line has criticised utility firms over engaging in unnecessary battles with small firms over billing errors. Julian Morgan, Managing Director, said “increasing numbers of firms needed help to get redress for supplier mistakes.”

Morgan continued: “Unfortunately businesses are not getting the help they need to sort out these disputes, which are often caused by suppliers making fundamental mistakes with billing, meter reading or applying the wrong rate of VAT.”

“Our contract management team has helped large numbers of business owners who are at their wits end trying to resolve a dispute and getting absolutely nowhere.

“Ofgem needs to introduce measures that ensure small businesses are treated fairly by utility companies, and that means intervening to help them sort out the problems caused by supplier errors if necessary.  At the moment they are getting no help at all.”

Anne Thompson, Treasurer of Woodhouses Cricket Club in Manchester, spoke of how an unexpected bill, which overcharged the club by £1,000-£1,500, caused her to fear for the future of the cricket club.

The problems began when the club switched its business electricity supplies from Scottish Power to Opus Energy late last year. The club were horrified to receive a £500 bill from its new supplier because it was more than three times what the club normally paid each month.

Then, in December, the club was stunned when £1,500 was deducted from its bank account via Direct Debit to settle Scottish Power’s final bill. The bill resulted in the club exceeding its overdraft and as a result incurring additional bank charges.

“Ours is a small village cricket club with approx 200 members,” Thompson said.

“Our resources are very limited and when we received these bills I really started to panic and worry about the future of the club.”

Thompson turned to the Energy Advice Line to help identify the cause of the billing problem. After discussing the issue it was determined that cause of the problem was Scottish Power mixing up its tariffs and applying them erroneously to the club’s three meters.

Thompson struggled to convince Scottish Power of the mistake and was forced to submit photographs over a period of 6-8 weeks to prove the readings and the type of meter installed at the club. “They didn’t actually say this but they made it clear they thought I was tampering with the meters – it was a nightmare,” she said.

“There’s no way on this earth that I would have been able to sort this out myself because the energy companies make it so difficult to understand how the bills are calculated,” Thompson added.

As a result of Woodhouses Cricket Club’s and countless other small businesses' struggles, the Energy Advice Line has called on Ofgem, as part of its Retail Market Review, to introduce tough new measures to protect UK business from unfair treatment by energy companies, in the face of spiralling energy costs.

The Energy Advice Line has actively campaigned for utility companies to change their business energy contracts and billing arrangements to make it easier for firms to switch suppliers to get the best business electricity rates and gas deals.