MANY firms spend at least 50 per cent more than they need to on their regular bills because they are not keeping a close eye on expenses.

That is the claim by a consultant who says many suppliers take advantage of customers who do not keep on top of their costs.

Andy Horn, business costs consultant for the Christchurch office of Auditel, says the cost of some utilities can rise sharply.

He reviews businesses’ outgoings on essentials such as energy, telecoms, mobiles, stationery, waste, water, merchant cards, rates and insurance.

“It depends on the size of the business, but more frequently than you would believe I see companies paying rates of sometimes over 50 per cent more than they need to spend,” he said.

“The vast majority of suppliers will take advantage of any company they perceive is not monitoring their costs and will increase their charges where they can.

“Even those companies who believe they are on top of their costs and have purchasing managers have the same issue, as they have to purchase many different goods and services maybe once a year at most and don’t have a grasp on true market rates, or which are the best suppliers.”

He said allowing energy bills to automatically renew could mean a 60 to 80 per cent increase in charges.

One major supplier requires customers to give more than four months’ notice of an intention to quit.

“Unless you contact them and say ‘I don’t want to renew’, that price can go up from 9p a kilowatt to 15 or 16p per kilowatt,” said Mr Horn.

“With stationery, you agree to pay a set price for a toner cartridge and if they don’t think you’re on top of that, they’ll try and stick the price up by 30 per cent. If they can get away with that, they will continue to do it. There are more suppliers that do that than don’t.”

His business works by charging companies a percentage of the money it saves them. With a head office in Winchester, it employs 180-200 staff, serving nearly 4,000 clients.

A review of the business often finds savings can be made by small steps such as checking where the company’s mobile phones are and how much stationery is being used.