Many convenience retail businesses which have been subject to 'bullying' tactics from energy supply companies are unable to enlist the help of Ofgem, the industry ombudsman, because they do not fit its description of a micro business.

In an often heated discussion at the ACS Energy Forum in London last week, representatives of Ofgem heard independent retailers voice their frustration at the lack of support in their battles with the power barons.

Ofgem intervenes in disputes between energy suppliers and small businesses with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover of less than £2m, which also use less than 55,000kWh of electricity a year.

With high staffing levels and high power use through lights, chillers and bake-off ovens, many c-stores miss out on the regulator's protection.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said he was concerned that some of the positive recommendations made by Ofgem would exclude many retailers: "We're pleased that Ofgem is recommending the end of contract rolling which has led to many businesses becoming locked into contracts at unjustifiably high rates. However, their recommendations will exclude a large number of vulnerable businesses, which means there is now no body dedicated to assisting businesses in legal battles with energy companies."

ACS is also concerned about energy companies' use of bailiffs, threatening letters or phone calls for short-term late payments, and believes suppliers should not be able to backdate payments where the energy company is at fault.

It has asked Ofgem to add a recommendation that energy companies keep a record of businesses receiving letters sent to them, and have one main contact for their customers.

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