Small firms call on Ofgem for access to energy contract cooling-off period and standing charges freeze ahead of winter

Press Releases 27 Nov 2023

Some small firms are trapped on high energy tariffs, while over half still cite utility bills as a main driver of rising costs

Utilities remain a cost driver for a majority of small firms, according to new research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

FSB’s latest Small Business Index shows over 57% of small businesses cited utilities as the main cause for rising business costs in Q3 this year, down slightly from 62% the previous quarter.

Memories of last year’s energy price crisis have not faded for small businesses, and this illustrates the need for firmer action from Ofgem to protect the small business community against mis-selling energy contracts and being trapped in unaffordable tariffs as we head into winter.

Microbusinesses should be given more flexibility to cancel a contract through access to a 14-day cooling off period. This would put them on par with domestic customers.

Standing charges continue to be an issue – we have heard examples of a small garden centre paying £1.20 standing charges per day. FSB would like to see a freeze on standing charges over the winter period due to the current economic climate.

Some small businesses are still trapped in the high, fixed energy tariffs from 2022 and unable to benefit from the lower wholesale energy prices we see today. In one case, an independent retailer pays 75p per kWh for electricity while a small pool club is charged 66p.

FSB National Chair Martin McTague said:

“While the fall in October’s energy price cap contributed to the slowdown in inflation, it’s important to point out that business tariffs are not protected by the cap, and many small firms are still living with higher utility bills, putting them under continuing stress.

“Giving microbusinesses the flexibility to cancel a contract through a 14-day cooling off period would deter pressurised sales tactics and help avoid some of the difficulties we saw last year when small firms found themselves trapped on high fixed tariffs.

“Freezing standing charges is another way to help cut energy bills. This is a fee small firms have to pay regardless of their energy usage and has been used by energy suppliers as a back-door way to inflate prices. We therefore welcome Ofgem’s consultation on potentially changing the standing charges system.

“Where relevant, we continue to call on energy suppliers to adopt our Ofgem-backed proposal and allow small firms which are still trapped in fixed contracts signed during last year’s market peak to extend their terms but at a lower and blended rate – between their original fixed rate and the lower wholesale energy prices we saw today.

“Small businesses are looking at Ofgem for a vital protection this winter. We look forward to continuing engaging the regulator on this further.”

  • *FSB Small Business Index (SBI) Q3 2023 survey, which is sponsored by Google, surveyed 816 small business owners and sole traders between 14-28 September 2023. 

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Yupina Ng

Yupina Ng

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About FSB

As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.

FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.