Energy bills: Couple discuss the increase in their prices
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Energy giant EDF has failed to provide the Government’s energy bills discount to 2,000 small businesses in the UK, reports reveal. The French energy firm admitted that because of “system issues”, they had not yet passed on the emergency Government help to thousands of small businesses. Last September, the Government announced the Energy Bill Relief Scheme supports businesses and public sector organisations such as schools and hospitals by providing a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices. Over the past year, households and businesses have faced the worst impacts of a global fossil fuel energy crisis, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While domestic customers have received some relief through measures like price caps, businesses were paying eye-watering energy bills prior to the Government’s discount.
However, not every firm has received this support, as EDF admitted to The Times that “systems issues” meant that certain businesses had not been handed the required state-funded discount.
Meanwhile, the Government has asked the UK energy regulator Ofgem to examine whether energy companies have been correctly passing on subsidies to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
While these discounts were supposed to be applied to businesses automatically, firms have said that despite being eligible, they had not yet received any relief.
EDF admitted that there was a system issue, however, they stressed that instances of overbilling were rare and only one percent of their SME customers had been affected.
A spokeswoman for the energy company said: “Where this has happened, customers will be contacted and a new bill will be sent. Approximately 2,000 of our SME customers have been billed incorrectly.
“We have already reviewed these accounts, and we are aiming for all affected customers to have corrected bills issued by the end of next week.”
Ministers have begun to meet with executives from the energy industry, amid concerns that businesses are facing similar issues at other suppliers as well.
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The Federation of Small Businesses, an industry body, has written to Business Secretary Grant Shapps, demanding that relief “arrives on time so that small firms can plan ahead, especially when they’re also up against inflation and other cost pressures”.
The Government has previously made it clear that current levels of support for businesses were time-limited and intended as a bridge to allow them to adapt.
This support is set to end in April, however, Conservative MP David Simmonds warned the Government that a number of SMEs had not yet seen the existing relief “reflected in their bills”.
Speaking in Parliament this week, Kevin Hollinrake, the small business minister, said that the Government had asked Ofgem to examine the allegations of overbilling.
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Mr Hollinrake also told MPs that during a recent meeting, energy suppliers had assured him and Graham Stuart, energy and climate minister, that the Government support is being passed on the SMEs.
Simon Delaney, the 57-year-old owner of the Firbank pub in Wythenshawe, Manchester, said that his gas provider EDF has been charging him 25 pence per kilowatt hour when it should be capped at 7.5p under the scheme.
He said: “My concern is if they’re doing this to me, they’ll be doing it to other [business owners] who might not be as strong-minded or as geeky as me. Most people in my industry don’t even know the unit rates.”
Mr Delaney hopes that EDF will respond within “24 hours” saying that they have amended his discount: “But what will probably happen is I won’t hear from them for 28 days and in the meantime, I’ll receive more incorrect bills.”
Ofgem said: “We are working with [the] Government and stakeholders to determine if further action or assistance is needed to help businesses, in addition to looking at compliance with existing requirements.”
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