Your company is protected not only by the contractual terms and conditions agreed with your energy supplier, but also by the statutory obligations and standards of performance set out by regulatory bodies.

Negotiating service level agreements

It is crucial that you negotiate the level of service that you require when you sign up for a new contract. Maintenance of your gas and electricity supply should be consistent throughout the life of your contract, not just at the beginning.

With so many suppliers in the energy industry, it's a buyers market – so don't be frightened to ask questions. Look for clauses in the contract that stipulate, for example, how often your meter will be read, don't just assume it's every month. Clarify what level of account management you require during the negotiations.

Take time to look over the contract and seek amendments to any clauses you are not happy with, or negotiate your own conditions. Weigh up the cost with the level of service – the cheapest option is not always the best! Impartial trade exchanges, such as BuyENERGYonline, will assist you in finding the best deal. Check the procedures for terminating the contract and make sure they are not too restricitive, and remember to diarise the notice period.

Emergency situations

Learning how to recognise a gas leak is the first step: natural gas is colourless, odourless and non-toxic, however it is highly flammable. For safety reasons, a smell like rotten eggs is added to the gas so you can detect a leak. Clear the gas by letting it escape thorugh windows and doors, and if a fire starts don't attempt to put it out with water.

As a precautionary measure you should vacate the building and call Transco, who operate the 24-hour emergency response service, on 0800 111 999. This service operates 365 days a year. If a disconnection is required, Transco will do this for you and it is at this point that you should contact your supplier to find out about receiving compensation.

Interruption of supply

A gas or power cut may cause disruption to your business so make sure you are aware of the procedures for dealing with it as quickly as possible.

The Utilities Act 2000 has empowered Ofgem to set guaranteed and overall standards for electricity distributors, electricity suppliers, gas transporters and gas suppliers. Most standards are guaranteed with compensation payments if suppliers fail to meet the requirements.

For example, electricity supplies must be restored within 18 hours after a fault is reported. One hundred pounds will be given to non-domestic customers whose guarantee is not met, with a further £25 for each additional 12-hour period without power. See Ofgem for further guaranteed standards.