Small businesses rely on access to affordable and reliable energy suppliers to run their business smoothly. Unfortunately, they often encounter issues and disagreements with energy providers that can hinder their business operations. The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme is a useful resource introduced by Ofgem to help small businesses deal with any unresolved disputes as fairly and impartially as possible.
Run independently by the Ombudsman Services, the ADR scheme provides small and micro businesses fair, efficient, and cost-effective ways of resolving disputes. This guarantees that complaints lodged by small businesses are addressed, and your rights are upheld through the ADR scheme. This article examines the ADR scheme and how it can help your small business resolve disputes.
Energy suppliers are only allowed to work with Third Party Intermediaries (TPIs) or Brokers registered with the scheme, according to a mandate from Ofgem that took effect on December 1st, 2022. This means improved and more equitable energy contracts for small and micro businesses.
For small businesses, understanding alternative dispute resolution is crucial should you ever encounter an unresolved dispute with an energy supplier. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to various methods and procedures for resolving disputes outside the traditional court system.
ADR modes frequently used include:
The ADR Scheme applies to all Third Party Intermediaries (TPIs), energy brokers, and consultants who offer a service to small and micro businesses. A micro business is defined as follows by Ofgem:
If a consumer is not a domestic user, they are classified as a micro business if they meet one of the following criteria:
Let’s look at how can the ADR scheme help your small business:
As a result of the rules set out by Ofgem, microbusinesses will now have access to information about broker commission fees before signing a contract. Additionally, energy providers must include the fees once business customers have accepted the terms and received their contract packet. Micro businesses will gain from the new rule of broker fee transparency, and it will also ensure that decisions are made fairly and with knowledge.
Secondly, your small business can switch to a new energy provider without notice after your business contract expires. However, you should also be aware that by switching suppliers before your energy contract expires, your energy provider might charge you an exit fee.
Lastly, Ofgem and Citizens Advice are working together to ensure that small businesses always know their rights by offering them easily accessible information on how the market operates. Access to market data for small and micro businesses is readily available.
A business can complain to the Energy Ombudsman if their issue has not been resolved. It is advised to attempt a direct resolution with the energy provider first, though, before taking the matter to the Ombudsman. A complaint should be resolved satisfactorily through direct communication; if not, you can file a complaint.
You can file a complaint with the Energy Ombudsman if it has been eight weeks and you are still not happy with the response from your energy provider. If you have a complaint about your energy service, you must notify your energy provider within 12 months of the unresolved issue.
The Ombudsman will then only take your complaint into account if one or more of the following apply:
You must provide the Ombudsman with all the relevant information regarding your complaint. They will better comprehend the situation and make a just decision. The ADR scheme may take some time to resolve disputes, so it's essential to be patient and avoid getting into pointless debates.
Understanding your legal obligations as a business energy consumer and how the ADR Scheme can help resolve any disputes with your energy supplier is essential. The program provides a fair and unbiased process for handling complaints that cannot be resolved directly after contacting the energy supplier.