Comparing retailers and contracts, and choosing an energy deal
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Comparing different retail energy plans can help you decide on a plan that best suits your circumstances.
Compare energy plans - Energy made easy (Australian Government)
You can also contact your energy retailer and ask if they can improve your current deal. Make sure you understand any fees related with switching. For example exit or early termination fees.
There are two types of energy contracts available in South Australia:
- standard retail contract
- market retail contract.
Check your bill for the type of plan you are currently on.
Standard retail contracts
This type of contract has:
- no exit fees and you can change to a different contract at any time
- standardised terms and conditions set by law.
Standard contracts usually have higher tariffs.
Tariffs charged under this contract can only be changed every six months. Your retailer must publish a notice on their website and in a relevant newspaper at least 10 days before any change to a tariff happens. They must also tell you of the change on your next bill.
Market retail contracts
Market retail contracts often include discounts and benefits. Market retail contracts are usually cheaper than standard retail contracts but could include exit fees and tariffs, which can change at any time.
Things that could be different between plans and retailers include:
- tariff rates and charges, including different tariffs for solar customer
- fees and penalties, for example overdue payments or ending a contract conditional discounts, for example, for paying on time or by direct debit
- non-conditional discounts, for example a percentage off every bill because you signed up
- how often you receive a bill
- payment arrangements, for example whether Centrepay is accepted
- the length of the contract
- incentives, for example gift vouchers or movie tickets.
All retailers must offer at least one market retail contract with no exit fees. If there is a change in a tariff, your retailer must let you know as soon as possible but no later than your next bill.
Market retail contracts must follow the National Energy Retail Rules.
Signing up is entering a contract
You can agree to a contract with a retailer:
- in writing with a signature
- verbally on the telephone, if the retailer records you agreeing
- electronically, if it is sent by you.
- Energy Advisory Service can help you understand the different types of contracts.
What retailers must tell youWhen an energy retailer offers you an energy contract, they must tell you about:
- all prices and charges, including early termination payments and penalties, security deposits, service levels, concessions or rebates, billing and payment arrangements, and how these could be changed
- the start date and length of the contract, any extensions, and ending contracts
- how electronic communication might take place and any rights or obligations the customer has when electronic communication is used
- your rights when withdrawing from the contract during the cooling-off period, including how to exercise those rights
- your right to complain to the retailer about marketing activity conducted on behalf of
the retailer. You also have the right to complain to the energy ombudsman if the problem is not satisfactorily resolved.
All market retail contracts have a 10 business day cooling off period. This begins on the date you receive information about the contract. This gives you time to change your mind and cancel the contract. You must contact the retailer to tell them you want to cancel within the 10 business days and give a reason for changing your mind.
Choosing the right deal
There are many things that could influence your decision when choosing a retailer.
You could be eligible for a solar feed-in payment if you have a solar PV system. Check the Energy Made Easy website to:
- find retailers who offer solar contracts
- compare the pricing for:
- the value of the feed-in payment
- the daily supply charge.
An off-peak tariff or ‘controlled load’ tariff is a cheaper price for electricity used to heat water when the demand for electricity is low. These tariffs are usually available if the appliance has a separate meter and can be time-controlled to run at low-demand times. Off-peak tariffs are different to 'time of use' tariffs and can be applied to any type of meter.
Off-peak tariffs could be applied to:
- permanently installed water heaters - 125 litres or more (including electric-boosted solar water heaters
- underfloor heating
- heat bank systems
- pool or spa heating elements - not pumps or other related equipment
- battery storage
- electric vehicles.
Your bill will show if you use off-peak electricity and if your contract applies an off-peak tariff.
Billing and payment methods
Your retailer must send you a bill at least once every three months if you are on a standard retail contract. Market retail contracts can vary – check the terms and conditions of the contract for details. Many retailers now send monthly bills to help customers manage costs. Contact your retailer to arrange something different.
Ask the retailer what payment methods are accepted and if there is an extra charge for options such as Centrepay or payment at post offices.
Fixed prices and benefits
Some market retail contracts can offer fixed pricing such as:
- for a set amount of time
- or the life of the contract.
Make sure you understand what part of the price is fixed - also called a ‘price guarantee’ or ‘price freeze’. Some contracts only fix the usage charges, but supply charges will vary.
These phrases do not relate to pricing in the contract, so charges could still vary:
- fixed term
- fixed benefit period.
An evergreen contract is when the agreement to supply energy continues until you or the retailer end the contract. Evergreen contracts usually include a fixed benefit period that goes for an agreed length of time, for example 12 months. At the end of the 12 months, the fixed benefit will end but the contract with the retailer will continue.
Make sure you understand what a discount applies to and if it’s conditional to other things in the contract.
A non-conditional discount is guaranteed and usually given for signing up to the contract, for example, you might receive a 5% discount off each bill for the length of the contract.
Discounts can apply to usage charges, supply charges or to the total bill.
Conditional discounts only applies if you do something specific. For example, you pay your bill on time or by direct debit. If you use Centrepay to manage your energy bills, check with your retailer to see if these payments are still eligible for pay-on-time discounts.. A non-conditional discount could be better than a conditional discount if you are not always able to pay your bill on time.
Buy energy generated by renewable energy sources - This option commits your retailer to buying the equivalent amount of electricity from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, like coal. The purchased electricity is fed into the grid, rather than supplied directly to your home.
Retailers can charge more for green energy.
Flexible pricing for smart meters
Residential customers with smart meters might be able to access flexible pricing options for their electricity supply.
Demand tariffs include two different components:
- a consumption charge
- demand charge
'Off peak' when referring to demand tariffs is different to ‘off-peak electricity’ referred to in current energy contracts.
This charges you per kilowatt-hour of electricity used in a home. It’s cheaper than the consumption charges used for standard or market contracts.
This charge is based on the maximum amount of power used in a home for 30 minutes during 4.00 and 9.00 pm (peak time). The amount of electricity you use is measured every day for a month and the day with the highest use decides the charge. It is recalculated each month, so customers can lower this charge if they can use less electricity during the peak time. A higher charge applies from November to March.
Time of use tariff
There are also time of use tariffs (ToU) – when different electricity prices are charged at various times of the day.
You could benefit from ToU pricing if you:
- are home during the day
- can use energy or set timers on home appliances such as air conditioners
- have energy storage that can store solar power for use during higher tariff periods.
Find out more about ToU tariffs on the Energy and Mining website.
Switching energy retailers
If you want to switch retailers, make sure you consider:
- any debts you have with your current retailer, as you might need to pay these off immediately
- what fees you must pay if you are ending a fixed-term contract before its end date
- any hardship arrangements you have with your current retailer.
If you are in a hardship program, your final bill and any outstanding debt might need to be paid in full. You might need to pay a security deposit to the new retailer – if you have outstanding debts a retailer can ask for a security deposit, which will be refunded once you’ve shown a good payment record. There are no guarantees that the new retailer will accept you into their hardship program.
Your new retailer will organise the transfer with your existing retailer. This will happen on the date of the next scheduled meter reading but you can pay for a special meter reading for it to happen sooner.
They must tell you what date the contract started within five business days of it beginning. The existing contract will automatically end and you’ll receive a final bill from them.
Concessions or life-support equipment
You will need to transfer any concessions and Centrepay arrangements you have to your new retailer. This will not happen automatically. You must also notify your new retailer if someone at the property uses life-support equipment.
Telemarketing or door-to-door sales
- Energy retailers can market their products to potential customers:
- in person
- by phone
- by mail
Salespeople must comply with the law when marketing to customers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has information about telemarketing and door-to-door sales, including :
- 'Do not knock' signs
- adding your phone number to the 'Do Not Call' register.
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