Business owners have been given a timely boost to help them manage soaring utilities costs in a deal offering freedom from rolling telecoms contracts and the best possible rates.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) and Chess Telecom have struck an arrangement unique to FPB members – no rollover contracts and a guarantee of best price.
The deal follows complaints from business owners concerned at the poor customer service they receive from other utilities companies. With little notice, many find themselves contractually bound to at least another year with the same provider, often at inflated prices.
"Most often, only a single letter is sent out and a non-response is taken as a business being complicit. Business owners are extremely busy and, unless notice is given within the specified time to terminate these ‘evergreen' contracts, utilities companies can just roll them over for a further year or two, sometimes at exorbitant prices. They rarely play fair," said the FPB's adviser on utilities Colin Beake, who is Managing Director of Utility Options, a utilities consultancy.
Norwood Instruments Ltd is a member of the FPB and is based in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. The company manufactures scientific and medical instruments. Its owner, John Dickinson, believes other utilities companies should be up front about their contracts with customers.
"The renewal date is often three or four months before the contract actually ends. You usually receive a letter a few weeks before then to tell you the contract is being renewed and a date up to which you can object or otherwise, but this seems to come out of the blue and catch you unawares," said Dr Dickinson.
"However, there's only one letter and sometimes letters can go adrift in the post. They [the utilities company] go ahead and renew the contract if they don't hear back within a short window. It's a self-serving system, as far as utilities companies are concerned."
However, since 1993, Chess Telecom has specialised in helping UK businesses reduce their utility costs and grow their profits. The company is the only private sector organisation in the UK to win a Customer First Award and has achieved several other commendations, including being named as Trinity Mirror's Cheshire Business of the Year and the Federation of Communication Service's Service Provider of the Year.
Chess Telecom is also helping businesses to manage their payments more efficiently by providing a single process of online billing – helping to protect the environment along the way.
"This is fantastic news for members of the FPB," said Chess' Sales Director, Warren Pryer, commenting on the new agreement with the FPB. "Not only do members have peace of mind that they will not be tied into a contract for longer than the agreed period of time but, if they are approached by an alternative provider offering a cheaper like-for-like quote, Chess will match it. This really does mean award winning service with the best possible rates."
The FPB's Products Manager, Jonathan Britton, explained the thinking behind the organisation's partnership with Chess Telecom.
"We were looking for a strategic partner to provide telecoms services to our members that was as keen to deliver a high standard of service to our members as we are," he said. "Equally as important were quality products and cost savings, which many of our members take advantage of. Chess fits the bill perfectly."