Finance Consumer How ‘bill switching’ services help consumers get a fair deal and cut energy costs

How ‘bill switching’ services help consumers get a fair deal and cut energy costs

Choice's bill-switching experiment helped consumers shave dollars off their power bills. Photo: Getty
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Regularly comparing and switching energy providers is key to cutting the cost of your electricity bill, new research has shown.

The cost of electricity and gas is a hot issue in Australia, with cases of price gouging and unfair billing practices by retailers.

Earlier this year ACCC commissioner Sarah Court described the retail electricity market as “too complex and opaque for many households to navigate the best deal”.

On Thursday consumer advocate Choice revealed that its experimental bill-switching service had saved users $1.68 million in electricity bills over the past year.

Named ‘Transformer’, the bill-switching experiment began in April 2018 but was discontinued by Choice last month due to the “costs of running the service and collecting data”.

Bill-switching services work by continually analysing the deals available in the market and telling users to switch to a new energy provider when a better deal becomes available.

“Electricity is a necessity, but electricity bills can be a nasty surprise, or something you dread coming in,” Choice director of reviews and testing Matt Steen said.

“The only way to make sure you’re getting a fair deal is to switch regularly because energy companies do not give loyal customers the best deals.”

All up, Transformer compared 13,000 bills and switched 2500 households to new electricity offers.

Transformer members discovered if their current provider was the most affordable option for them, or were alerted if they would be better off with someone else.

The experiment demonstrated the “potential sailings available if you change energy providers regularly”, Mr Steen said.

“This service was a new and innovative means of making sure that Australians were getting the best deal they possibly could on their power bill,” he said.

While the Transformer experiment has now ended, Choice also released a list of the electricity providers that offer the most competitively priced plans across NSW, Victoria, and south-east Queensland based on bills analysed by the bill switching service.

“While we can’t continue to offer a personal switching service, we’re glad to see that both federal and state governments across the country have started investing in similar services, such as the NSW switching service and the Australian government’s Energy Made Easy,” Mr Steen said.

“Australians need this help to navigate a far-too-complex market.”

There are a number of state and federal government switching services available for consumers to use including:

Major changes to energy pricing in Victoria, NSW, SA and south-east Queensland

Huge changes to energy-pricing laws in several major states were rolled out on July 1 as part of government efforts to cut power bills.

In NSW, SA and south-east Queensland, customers currently being stung by their energy retailer with the highest power prices will automatically be switched to a new, lower price determined by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and termed a ‘Default Market Offer’ (DMO).

In Victoria, households and businesses on standard contracts (‘standing offers’ as opposed to ‘market offers’) will be rolled over to the ‘Victorian Default Offer’, set by the state’s Essential Services Commission (ESC).

  • Click here to learn more about the Default Market Offer and the Victorian Default Offer

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