Selecting an energy consultant to give you impartial advice, and assist you in your energy procurement, can be a minefield. There are some unscrupulous consultants and brokers in the industry who employ tactics akin to the double glazing companies of the 1990’s. They are just in it to make a quick buck and don’t care about the damage and costs to your business often leaving you to put things right yourself, if at all possible. Often these brokers are small or one-man-bands who operate from back bedrooms, short term rental offices or even virtual offices. Their websites give no clue as to who is behind the business, and can sometimes look as if your 13-year-old has designed it for their school project.
Choosing a consultant or broker who works directly with the suppliers themselves is the first point to consider. Suppliers will have contractual arrangements with these companies and as part of their on boarding process will have carried out a detailed review of their policies and processes. Some suppliers do this assessment more comprehensively than others, and can even carry out on site audits, although this is rare. In addition some suppliers have codes of practice which the consultant or broker has to sign up to as part of the contractual arrangements. Therefore, you can be confident that the supplier has some arrangements in place to ensure that the consultant operates fairly.
However, you need to remember that the suppliers do have a vested interest; so selecting a consultant who has many suppliers on board will give you more assurance that this vested interest is not a dominant factor, and that you obtain a more reliable full market view of pricing and products available.
Who do you look out for to avoid any potential issues and risk to your business? Well some brokers operate through an aggregator where they pass your signed contract to the aggregator who in turn provides these to the energy supplier. The aggregator has the contractual relationship with the supplier and is therefore subject to the previously described vetting process. However, these aggregators don’t always carry out any initial vetting themselves on the brokers who they take business from. We were approached by one of the largest aggregators in the UK who wanted us to do little more than complete a form that required our name and address.
We would always recommended that when selecting your consultant or broker that you choose one that belongs to the Utilities Intermediaries Association (UIA). This trade body requires its members to sign up to a strict code of practice, which is a prerequisite of its full membership. This code includes a detailed complaints process whereby businesses who have been provided with a poor service can make a complaint directly to the UIA. The UIA investigate these to ensure no inappropriate behaviour has occurred.
Our advice to all customers is simply look at who you are going to do business with before you sign up to any contracts; carry out your own due diligence.