The government is expected to launch a consultation into the non-domestic energy market by the end of this month.

It will arrive hot on the heels of the much publicised launch of Ofgem’s consultation to improve the competitiveness of the household energy market.

With 85% of small business owners having already reported an increase in energy costs in the last year, the news of the consultation has been welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS). However, public affairs director Shane Brenan also had a warning for the energy regulator.

“We are concerned that because the domestic market is so far ahead of the non-domestic in terms of legislation, that the gap between the two will only widen. What we want and need is a level playing-field between consumers and businesses,” he said.

The non-domestic consultation is expected to examine a number of key areas of concern for convenience store retailers including changes to the definition of micro businesses and and end to rollover contracts.

Earlier this month four of the UK’s big six energy companies announced steep price hikes for the year ahead, with more expected to follow

Npower will increase the price of gas by an average of 8.8% and electricity by 9.1% from November 26, while British Gas said plans to up charges for both types of fuel by an average of 6%.

The Forum of Private Business meanwhile said the rises would herald a “winter of discontent” for many small business owners, more than 80% of whom had already reported an increase in energy costs in the last year.

“Many firms are already battling the economic elements, but if the weather turns it could spell the end for those already walking a cost tightrope,” the forum’s senior policy adviser Alex Jackman said.