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High Pay for Energy? It’s Time to Switch Energy Providers

Are you paying too much for your energy? If you haven’t reviewed your energy plan recently, chances are the answer is yes. Most Australians count electricity bills among their main concerns when it comes to expenses, and while prices have recently eased a bit they are still historically high. Thankfully, there is something you can do about your energy providers.

Aside from finding ways to save energy around the house to reduce the amount you spend on electricity, you may also be able to look around for a better deal with a different energy supplier.

What kind of plan are you on now?

Before you look at the other options available, you need to check what you’re currently paying and if there are any fees associated with changing your plan or retailer. If you can’t find this information on a past bill, call your retailer and ask them.

While you’re looking at your old bills, take a note of how many kWh you use each quarter. This will be helpful when you’re comparing offers. If possible, dig up your bills for the past year as you may use more energy during winter or summer.

How are you charged under your current plan?

You’ll need to know how you’re currently being charged to see if there’s a better deal available for you. This will be either:

  • A single flat rate at all times
  • different prices, based on the time of use
  • A lower price at night for heating hot water, for example, with a single flat rate for everything else.
  • You’ll be charged in one of these ways regardless of what type of meter you have (a smart ‘time-of-use’ meter or an old type ‘accumulation’ meter).


If you have an old electric storage hot water system, it’s worthwhile considering your alternative hot water system options now before it goes. Water heating can account for a quarter of typical household energy use and you may find a system that saves energy and money and is kinder to the environment.

If you have a pool pump or under-floor heating, investigate whether you can get it linked to a ‘controlled load’ tariff and the level of potential savings.

If you’re on a time-of-use plan when buying your next dishwasher or washing machine consider buying one with a delayed start option. Also, investigate smart meters.

How to switch energy providers

  • If you find something better, contact your current provider and see if they will match it or do better. If they can’t, then it’s a good time to re-check any fees that would apply if you leave.
  • If you decide that you want to switch, you can contact the new retailer directly.
  • The switching process usually happens quickly but depends on the retailer you choose, so it’s best to check.
  • Your electricity or gas supply will not be interrupted when you change contracts or move to a different retailer.

Know your rights

If you’re switching electricity plans, you have at least a five-business-day cooling-off period. This means you can change your mind and cancel the contract within five business days, ten if the retailer contacted you.

  • If you’re being door-knocked or called by telemarketers, consider the following:
  • Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot.
  • For door-knockers, ask to see their identification. By law, they have to show you. If you ask them to leave, they must leave immediately.

There have been reports of salespeople saying that ‘your supplier won’t change’. This isn’t true. The distributor (i.e. the poles and wires) that supplies your electricity won’t change but your retailer (the one that bills you) will change.

If you don’t like people knocking on your door, you can get a ‘Do not knock’ sticker to put out the front of your house.

Fixed-term contracts and unilateral price variation

Consumer rights groups have long been trying to put a stop to unilateral price variation – the practice by energy retailers of changing the price of energy (or make that ‘raising’ the price of energy) in fixed-term contracts in the middle of the contract. The retailers claim it’s necessary because their costs can go up during the duration of the contract, and so far the regulators have sided with the retailers on the premise that ending unilateral variation would lead to higher prices for consumers.

But unilateral variation looks like an unfair contract term to us and the battle continues. With no end in sight, it’s something to bear in mind because it means the price of gas or electricity in effect when you signed a contract can and probably will go up.

There has been one small consumer win thanks to the efforts of consumer groups: retailers now have to make it more clearly in the contract wording that prices can change and they must communicate any price changes more proactively rather than having customers finding out on their next bill. But better communication only goes so far, since dumping a two-year or similar length contract before it’s up will likely mean paying an exit fee.

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