These days, Aussies have a mountain of reasons to shop around for a new energy provider, particularly as market deregulation has given customers the freedom to get up and leave if they’re unsatisfied with their current plan or retailer. Although many households may ponder switching energy companies at some point, there’s usually a bit of confusion around how long the process takes, as well as the fees involved.
At Canstar Blue, we aim to clear the air and demystify any common misconceptions of changing electricity or gas providers. So, whether you’re moving house and seeking a fresh start or you want to get a feel for what else is out there, reading this guide is your best bet to finding maximum value in your next energy plan.
How to Switch Energy Providers
If you’ve decided to part ways with your existing gas or electricity provider, switching is quite a simple process. To change energy providers, generally all you need to do is contact the company you’re looking to switch to, and they will organise the transition from your old retailer on your behalf.
With more than 30 electricity and gas companies currently retailing across Australia, your options as a consumer are plentiful. What’s even better is that energy providers will fight for your business as the market is so competitive, so long as you’re willing to be a little proactive. If switching energy isn’t on your to-do list, it may be worth simply calling your energy provider and asking for a better deal. Who knows, you could be paying more for energy now than when you first signed up, and you don’t even know it.
10 things to do when switching energy
While some energy providers may handle the switching process slightly differently, here is a general guide to what you can expect to happen when you switch – and when:
- Compare electricity and gas plans in your area
- Go ahead and switch to a new provider who offers the most value according to your needs
- You have a 10-day cooling off period to change your mind and not incur any fees
- Your old provider may contact you during this time and offer you a better deal to stay
- Your new provider will send you a welcome pack and invite you to set up direct debit payments
- It may take a few weeks for the switch to complete because you will need a meter reading so your old provider can send you a final bill
- Your new provider will confirm when it has taken over your account
- Your next bill will be from your new energy provider
- You will now be able to access any special features connected to your new plan
- Don’t just set and forget – regularly compare your options because new deals could become available!
Compare Electricity Providers
What to think about before switching energy
Before signing up to a new energy retailer, you should do a bit of research and work out which features are most important to you. Here are five things you should keep an eye out for:
- Usage charges: The usage rate you are charged for consumption of electricity or gas at your home. Usage rates are charged in cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity, or cents per megajoule (MJ) for gas, and can vary significantly between retailers.
- Supply charges: The supply rate you are charged for delivery of electricity or gas to your home. Supply charges typically cost between 80c and $1.20 per day, but will vary depending on the energy retailer and where you live.
- Connection fees: Hidden fees for connection, disconnection and exiting a contract from an energy provider. These fees tend to be tucked away in the fine print of your energy plan, but can quickly add up if you’re not careful.
- Customer incentives: Conditional discounts, bill credits, sign-up offers and rewards programs are all ways that energy providers compete for your business. Just make sure these offers aren’t concealing higher usage and supply rates.
- Customer service: Whether or not you have online access to your account 24/7, trading hours of the call centre or if it’s an Australian-owned company, are all aspects to consider when comparing energy providers.
Furthermore, you may want to investigate other features, including the billing cycle (i.e. billed monthly or quarterly), payment options, and if your electricity or gas rates are going to be locked into a contract of 12 or 24 months.
Can I change energy providers in my state?
While Aussies in some parts of the country are able to switch energy providers with ease, others are not so lucky. This is due to the market being regulated in particular areas, meaning that households do not have the option of choosing their electricity or gas retailer.
Take a look at the table below to see if you can switch in your area.
|State||Can I switch electricity providers?||Can I switch gas providers?|
|New South Wales||Yes||Yes|
|Queensland||Yes (south east QLD only)||Yes (south east QLD only)|
|Australian Capital Territory||Yes||Yes|
*There are two electricity providers in WA but they operate in different areas and customers are not able to switch. The WA gas market is competitive. While the Northern Territory energy market is now open to competition, there remains only one retailer for electricity and gas.
How long does it take to switch energy providers?
Switching to a new electricity or gas provider can take up to three months, however it will depend on when your last meter reading took place. Your energy distributor will carry out your final meter reading which is then sent onto your new electricity or gas retailer – this way your final bill should be accurate and up to date.
To speed up the process, you can request a special meter reading on a suitable date, however there are almost always additional fees or costs attached to this service, which is why double checking the details with your new retailer is a good idea. Once your final meter reading has been carried out and received by your new energy retailer, your next bill should be from the new company you’ve signed up to. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to pay a final bill from your existing provider and settle any outstanding amounts.
When can you switch energy providers?
Customers can change energy providers at any time of their contract term, but they may accrue exit fees for doing so. That’s why, if you’re serious about switching, make sure you pay attention to the fine print or you could be stung with hidden fees that could have you second guessing your decision to change providers.
What happens when you switch energy providers?
Normally there isn’t much to do after you’ve switched to a new energy provider and most of the paperwork is handled on your behalf, provided you’ve given them permission to do so. Once a final meter reading has taken place, your next bill should be from the company you’ve switched to. If for any reason you feel as if something isn’t quite right, contact your new provider and they should be able to provide you with an update.
What if I change my mind after switching?
If you change your mind after signing up to a new energy provider, you will have a 10-day cooling off period where you can cancel your plan. All you need to do is contact your energy retailer within this timeframe and inform them that you would like to cancel the agreement. If you change your mind after the cooling off period, you may be charged an exit fee.
Is switching energy providers right for you?
Whether you’ve already made up your mind to switch or you’re on the fence, changing providers isn’t the only option on the table. In fact, picking up the phone and negotiating a better deal with your current retailer could be your answer to getting the best bang for your buck. That being said, if change is what you’re after and you’ve done your homework, you could very well walk away with some savings.
With so much competition in the energy space, you may be surprised by what’s on offer out there. To put your mind at ease, use our electricity comparison tool to review a range of quotes based on your postcode and circumstances.