A letter of authority (LoA) is a legal document that authorises a third party, or ‘agent’, to correspond directly with energy suppliers on behalf of you or your business. A properly constructed letter of authority will list the specific tasks and responsibilities the third party has been authorised to deal with for ‘the principal’ and should always include a signature, the date it was signed, and a specifically outlined period of time that denotes how long authority has been granted for.
What is a letter of authority?
Although vitally important to the operations of your business, many business owners won’t have the time to personally compare and select the best energy deals for their company or handle the administration involved with managing their existing account. That’s why so many businesses hand over this responsibility to an intermediary that can do this for them. These third parties typically work for professional energy consultancies or as an independent broker. In order to use an intermediary like this, your business will need to provide the agent with a valid signed and dated letter of authority. Without a valid letter of authority, a third party consultant cannot legally complete the following jobs on your behalf:
- correspond and liaise with your current energy supplier to deal with any service and/or billing queries on your behalf
- organise energy-related maintenance or upgrade appointments with your supplier, such as standard boiler services or smart meter installations
- submit meter readings or collect energy consumption data collected by your supplier for energy management purposes
- start the process of renewing or switching energy supplier contracts or negotiate with other suppliers to find your business an improved deal (subject to your final approval).
Letter of authority
However, once a LoA has been received and accepted by both the principal and the agent, as well as any energy suppliers involved – including current suppliers and any new suppliers your company wishes to talk to – your chosen intermediary has the legal right to correspond with all parties involved on your behalf. Remember, once a LoA has been accepted and a third party has started to work for you, you are still in control. As long as your LoA is properly written and is designed to protect you – as will be discussed in further detail below – and you find a good third party that will remain totally transparent throughout your time working together, a partnership of this type can be very beneficial to your business.
How do I write a letter of authority?
A LoA should be written in simple English and be as easy-to-understand as possible. Naturally, accuracy is essential when constructing any official document and LoAs are no exception. Even the smallest mistakes can prevent a third party from working on your behalf and can also be time-consuming to rectify. As a rule of thumb, your LoA should always:
- be signed and dated within the last 12 months
- state the name of the company’s signatory and their registered business name, along with its registered company address and company number
- clearly set out the specific rights and responsibilities given to the third party
- clearly state who you are delegating your authority to
- be typed on company letterhead paper, where possible.
Understanding a letter of authority
Although some energy consultants and brokers may supply you with their own LoA template designed to enable you to quickly and easily provide your authorisation, it is vitally important that you read through this document carefully before signing to ensure you understand what you are actually giving authority for. For example, a LoA should never give a third party the right to make any final decisions regarding new energy contracts without the approval and consent of your company. While the account management and negotiation skills of a third party can be helpful, you will want to protect your business against poor decisions by remaining in full control of new contract choices through final sign-offs.
In many scenarios, it may be necessary to insist that you will only supply your authority to a certain third party if they agree to accept a LoA drawn up by yourself. This allows you to stay in control of what responsibilities you are legally allowing the third party to have and can help to avoid any nasty surprises later down the line. Usually, a correctly written LoA will include specific language, phrasing and terminology. This is to ensure that the LoA is as clear as possible and protects the rights of both you as the principal and the third party as the agent. Phrases commonly seen and used include the following:
‘I, the account holder and owner of [insert business name], do hereby give authority for the above named person and/or consultancy to discuss all aspects of my [insert supplier’s name] account with [insert supplier’s name] on my behalf. This includes, but is not limited to, any bills and usage, payments and other account activity past or present.’
‘We hereby authorise [insert third party’s name] to act as the utility management company for [insert business’ name] with enquiries regarding any and all relevant data to enable us to do this. We authorise them to manage our account on our behalf and deal with any changes to the portfolio during the life of the currently agreed contract.’
And all letters of authority should contain a sentence similar to the following:
‘For the complete avoidance of any doubt, this letter of authority does not permit or authorise [insert third party’s name] to enter into new supply agreements on our behalf.’
Sample letter of authority
Below is a sample letter of authority that can be used as a guide to help you construct your own document.
[YOUR COMPANY HEADED PAPER]
[insert business name, registered address and company number]
To whom it may concern,
We hereby authorise [insert third party’s name] to act as the utility management company for [insert business’ name]. Please accept this letter as authority for [insert third party’s name] to obtain energy supplier quotes, serve notice on current contracts, access any relevant data held by current suppliers, as well as all billing and usage information, and any other relevant account information on our behalf. We also authorise any changes to the account during the life of the currently agreed contract, if instructed and signed-off by us. This includes, but is not limited to, submitting VAT forms and CCL exemption forms. This authority is granted for a period of 12 months commencing on [insert today’s date].
[insert third party’s name, registered address, company number and relevant contact details]
For the complete avoidance of any doubt, this letter of authority does not permit or authorise [insert third party’s name] to enter into any new supply agreements on our behalf. To confirm, an authorised representative of [insert business name] must sign all such agreements.
[position held in business]
How long is a letter of authority valid for?
A LoA should always specifically state how long the authority has been granted for. However, a period of either six or 12 months is considered standard. If a LoA does not contain a predetermined period of time in which the letter remains valid, it will usually only be considered legitimate for 12 months from the date it was signed. This means if you want an LoA that is deemed valid for longer or shorter than 12 months, it needs to specify this on the letter itself.
Once the period of time detailed in the letter has expired (or after 12 months if no specific period is provided), a new freshly signed and dated LoA will have to be provided to enable the third party to continue acting on behalf of your business.
Who can sign a letter of authority?
An official LoA that has the power to authorise a third party to correspond directly with energy suppliers on behalf of you or your business must always be signed and dated by the owner of the business, a company director or a specifically designated and authorised signatory from your organisation.
Finally, it’s important to remember that as well as being printed on company letterhead paper where possible, all letters of authority should be manually, or ‘wet’, signed using a pen before being submitted. A photocopy of the document should also be made and kept on record for future reference.
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