Coronavirus Business Advice (Covid-19)

Businesses across the country are affected by lockdown, find out how we can help you manage your expenses and maintain cashflow.

In such trying times its important to review all of your outgoings and save where you can.

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Business advice for Utility Bidder customers

As we enter a period of lockdown across the UK, Utility Bidder has arranged for most of our staff to be able to work remotely, which means we can continue to support our customers.

We know this is a worrying time for all sectors and as businesses face decisions about paying bills such as rent, insurances and staff wages, they also have concerns around paying their utility bills.

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Concerned about paying your energy bills?

We have been looking at how energy suppliers are helping customers and the main message is should you be likely to face debt because of your business closure, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible.

However, getting hold of a supplier in the current crisis is proving difficult for many of our clients and we are advising that you keep trying and, where feasible, use online tools such as email or webchat.

New emergency measures have been put in place by government to help support domestic customers, and although there is not a specific energy package for commercial companies, Ofgem say: ‘Any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier, which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.’

We anticipate that most energy companies will respond to business requests for help on a case by case basis and they should be happy to discuss delayed or extended payment arrangements should you fall into debt.

Government backed loans and grants

In addition, the government has announced a series of support measures. SMEs with an annual turnover of less than £45m can apply for the government’s Business Interruption Loan Scheme which offers an interest free loan of up to £5m. Businesses will be able to borrow for up to six years however, you will need to prove you are a viable business that only needs the extra support because of these short-term difficulties. Forty lenders have signed up to the scheme and you should apply directly to your own bank in the first instance. Full details can be found here.

Larger companies with a turnover of more than £45m can apply to the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, essentially a government promise to buy short term IOUs. Again, your business must have a high credit rating and be in a strong financial position. You can apply through your own bank and full details are available here.

Retail, hospitality and leisure business help

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year and will be eligible for a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. Both these measures will be automatically triggered by your local authority and so you don’t need to do anything or contact anyone. Full details are available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

We are living through extraordinary times and we know that many Utility Bidder customers have concerns about their business. As you know, we have relationships with many providers and so we have compiled some of your frequently asked questions here. Most suppliers are giving the same advice, but if there are any differences – we will highlight them.

Nothing has changed and you should still follow the same advice that has always been given. If you smell gas or think you may have a leak – open all your windows and doors immediately, turn off any naked flames and telephone 0800 111 999.

If you have an electrical outage than call 105 and your electricity network distributor will assist you.

Energy suppliers will abide by government advice and so most of them will be postponing all face to face visits to fit new smart meters. Some say they will try to carry on with scheduled appointments, if it is safe to do so, however, in reality we expect all appointments to be put on hold.  It’s unlikely they will reschedule appointments until they know when normal service is likely to resume.

The same applies to meter readings, however, you can still take a reading (we advise taking a photograph which can be used by your supplier at a future date).

Although these delays may cause your business some inconvenience, as you can imagine, suppliers must be mindful of the health and safety of their workforce.

No. Suppliers have an important role to play in keeping the country going and they have detailed crisis plans in place to ensure that power is supplied to business customers.

Energy companies continue to work to the same rules and regulations required by Ofgem.  Obviously, the government response to the coronavirus changes daily, but the industry is not expecting any disruption to normal service supply.

We appreciate how frustrating it is if you can’t speak to your supplier. However, as you can imagine, they are inundated with calls and queries from both consumer and business clients – and they may also have a reduced staff.

We are all having to get used to a ‘new normal’ during this crisis and so please bear with them. If you can’t get through on the phone, try using online services which most providers offer. If you are not registered online, they are encouraging you to do so. This will help you manage payments, views bills and provide meter readings.

In addition, it’s likely their most up to date news will be on their Twitter or Facebook pages.

Utility Bidder will of course, work hard to answer any supplier queries where relevant. However, we will also face the same limitations. Please be patient and we, or your supplier, will get in touch as soon as we can in these challenging times.

Mum working at home

Closing Checklist

There is little good news when it comes to closing your business although you won’t be consuming gas or electricity – which may help alleviate some financial stress. If you don’t have a smart meter it is probably a good idea to make a note of your meter readings before closing the door for the last time.

Do a full walk around your entire site to ensure that electrical appliances are not just powered down but completely switched off (unless of course, it’s something that needs to be on, such as a fridge). It’s unlikely you will need any heating if the premises are empty and thankfully the arrival of spring should mean heating costs are reduced for those businesses that are open.

If you have stock that will go out of date or spoil, make sure you make a note of it all and if possible take photographic evidence, as you may be able to claim on your insurance. If you have time, it’s a good idea to clean work areas so that when you do come back your business will be ready to go.

Check all windows and doors to ensure they are locked and if appropriate pull down blinds. If you have an alarm, make sure it is set and of course, turn off all lights and fully lock all doors behind you.

Back to business as usual

Hard to believe now, but this crisis will end eventually and we hope that the majority of our customers’ businesses will be back to trading as usual.  Social isolation has left many people with time on their hands and so consider this an opportunity to review your business and make positive changes.

Review your business plan. Take a critical look at your website, what can be changed or improved? And consider reducing your gas and electricity bills by switching your energy provider to lock in the competitive energy prices that are currently available. It may not seem like the most obvious thing to do at this particular time but actually this is the ideal opportunity to future proof your business by reducing costs such as energy.

Our team is ready and waiting to discuss how we can help you get your business in the best shape possible for life after the Coronavirus.

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