Customers in South East Queensland (SEQ) have a choice of electricity deals offered by different companies. Here are some questions customers should think about when comparing electricity offers in a competitive market.
Understand your current offer
Before customers can work out whether they might be better offer with another retailer or plan, they need to understand their current offer. Some questions to ask include:
- How much electricity do you use?
- What tariffs are you on?
- What tariff prices do you pay?
- What other fees and charges apply?
- Is there a minimum notice period or exit fee involved if you switch retailers?
- Do you have a gas contract as well and is there a dual fuel discount?
- Do you have solar panels and how much are your solar feed-in tariff payments?
Use free comparison tools
The easiest way to shop around is use the comparison tools available online. The Energy Made Easy website managed by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) makes it easy to compare offers by showing all offers in your area, estimating an annual bill for each offer and letting you compare up to three offers at the same time. To compare offers it helps to have at least one recent bill available or have an idea of how much energy the household uses.
Customers can also do their own research by visiting retailer website or calling them to find out what they can offer. Most retailers provide price factsheets on their websites which detail the terms and conditions of their offers. An up-to-date list of all the electricity retailers currently operating in Queensland is available on the Queensland Government website.
Other commerical online price comparators are available which can provide additional information or estimates based on average Australian usage figures for cusotmers who do not have a bill or idea of their household usage. Be aware that these comparison services may not include all retailers or all offers that may be available, and may not have the most up-to-date information.
Asking the right questions
Before you agree to sign up to a new deal, there are a number of variables to consider and compare. Here are some important questions to ask to make sure the offer being considered is suitable.
- Which tariffs does the discount apply to?
- Does the discount apply to the whole tariff price or just part of it?
- Is the discount applied before or after concessions are deducted?
- Does the discount or quoted price refer to prices before or after GST?
- Are there special conditions and can you meet them?
- Do you need a special membership to qualify for the discount?
- Do you have to pay your bills on time to get the discount?
- Are there any late fees or other charges?
- Can you pay by your preferred payment method and is there a transaction cost?
- Will you be locked into a fixed term contract and if so how much is the exit fee?
- Do you have any debt you need to pay off with your current retailer first?
- What kind of customer service are you looking for?
- What is offered under the retailer’s financial hardship policy?
A customer may be contacted in person, by telephone, or by mail by marketers or salespeople offering a market contract. However customers have the right to request the marketers to leave or refuse their offers at any time.
Under rules set out in the respective industry codes, electricity and gas retailers are responsible for the conduct of any person carrying out marketing on their behalf. Marketers must not contact customers outside of prescribed times, must identify themselves and the retailer they represent, and must provide accurate and comprehensible information. The Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland website provides further information about the responsibilities of marketers and tips for dealing with marketers.
Energy retailers are required to have processes for dealing with disputes about marketers. A customer who has a complaint about a salesperson should contact the retailer first. If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved a complaint can be made to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland.
Rights and responsibilities for customers who transfer
Electricity concessions do not automatically transfer across when a customer switches retailers. Recipients of concessions must re-apply through their new retailer.
Customers who change their mind after agreeing to a new contract have a cooling-off period of 10 days to cancel the new contract without penalty.
Customers who encounter difficulties dealing with an energy company, or are unable to resolve a dispute, can lodge a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland. For more information, call 1800 662 837 or visit the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland website.
QCOSS has released a number of factsheets on essential services, including more detailed information on comparing electricity offers in SEQ. You can print these factsheets to hand out to clients.
For more tips on choosing or changing electricity retailers watch this video on StudioQ.