As many small businesses have been forced to temporarily close or reduce operations during the coronavirus pandemic, using less energy and lower energy costs is perhaps one small consolation in the fight to stay solvent. But this doesn’t mean you should stop paying your business energy bills altogether.
How do businesses that are open and providing essential services during the coronavirus crisis continue to keep the lights on and appliances running, whilst still managing their cash flow?
Do businesses still have to pay for their energy during the coronavirus lockdown?
All business utility and energy bills are expected to be paid as normal including standing charges.
You’ll need to pay for the gas and electricity used at some point and there’s lots your energy supplier can do to help you stay on track to help take the pressure off any immediate financial pressure and protect your credit rating.
The answer to lower energy bills is to provide a meter reading online
If you still have access to your business premises, and it’s safe to do so, you should provide a gas or electricity meter reading online – it’s quick and easy to do. See ‘More help’ below for details.
That way, if your business is closed, you’ll receive an accurate bill which will be lower because you’re using less energy. If your business is open, but on reduced operations, you’ll only pay for the energy you’re using.
And, if you manage your energy account online, you’ll receive email prompts at the time your meter reading is due. It’s quick to register for an online account if you don’t already have one.
Note – if you provide your meter read towards the end of the month, ideally after the 14th, your energy provider will use the actual read you’ve given and you won’t receive two bills.
Energy suppliers won’t be sending anyone to read your meter for the time being. These services have been suspended nationally due to social distancing measures.
If you’re having difficulty reading your meter, help and support is available online – see ‘More help’ below for details.
Remember to turn off lights and any non-essential equipment if your premise isn’t occupied. Or close off any areas not currently in use to keep energy costs down.
What’s the best way to pay for your business energy during the coronavirus lockdown?
If you already pay by variable Direct Debit and you submit an up to date meter reading, you’ll only pay for the energy you’re currently using, and you won’t be storing up energy costs and higher bills for the future.
If you’re paying by fixed Direct Debit and you’ve temporarily closed or reduced operations, you may want to change this to a variable Direct Debit for the time being. You can do this easily through your online account.
If you pay by cheque, or BACs transfer after receiving an invoice, remember if you provide an up to date meter reading when it’s due, you’ll only be billed for the energy you’re using plus standing charges to keep the meter running. You may want to consider setting up a Direct Debit as most energy providers offer discounts off the cost of your energy.
So, what support are energy suppliers offering?
If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills due to the coronavirus, it’s worth asking your energy provider for help.
They’ll review your account balance with you, understand what you can afford to pay now and arrange an affordable payment plan that allows you to stay on track and avoid going into energy debt.
If you’re finding it hard to get in touch by phone, look out for ways to chat online or send an email. It’s in the energy providers’ interest to help you.
Are you overpaying for your energy?
If you haven’t checked your business energy contract recently, you may have moved to an expensive out of contract tariff. Take some time to shop around for a fixed contract with lower rates to help save on your energy costs or contact your energy supplier to see what prices they can offer you – see ‘More help’ below for how to switch.
No matter which supplier you’re with, it’s always worth getting in touch if you’re concerned about your business finances.
Your supplier will come up with a solution, so don’t worry unduly and don’t wait for the problem to get worse – act now.
More help from British Gas business