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Cancelling your current energy contract is a pretty straightforward process, but there are a few things to keep an eye out for.
This guide will take you through how to cancel, how to switch plans and what you need to know before cancelling.
To cancel your contract, it's simple:
- Contact your energy retailer. You can either do this over the phone or online.
- Provide the right information. For example, you'll need your account number and proof of identification.
- Pay an exit fee and any outstanding bills. Note: there may be a delay before the final bill comes in.
How to switch energy retailers
If you want to switch your energy retailer, simply contact your new provider and apply for the new plan. The new retailer will take care of the handover.
Here is what the steps usually look like:
- Give your metering info (NMI) to your new retailer.
- They make the switch for you.
- You get a cooling-off period in case you change your mind.
Note: You can find your NMI on your bill or you can ask your existing retailer.
Reconnecting to your existing retailer at a new address
If you're moving houses, but you plan on staying with your current retailer, don't cancel your plan straight away. Let your provider know (either over the phone or online) that you're moving.
You'll likely be able to organise a disconnection and reconnection. However, there may be some fees involved.
Have these details ready to go for your retailer:
- Your new address
- The date you need to get reconnected
- Your contact number and a form of ID
What's in this guide?
- Fees to look out for
- When should you switch energy retailers?
- How easy is it to switch and save money?
- How to compare your current plan to a new plan
- Know your rights
- Can your new retailer raise the price mid-contract?
- Switching services
- Can I choose my own energy and gas retailers in my state?
- Frequently asked questions
- Looking for a new energy retailer? Compare by state below
Fees to look out for
Early exit fees apply to electricity and gas customers who sign a contract for a set length of time and decide to leave before that period ends. Contracts usually vary from six months to two years for residential and business customers.
You can call and speak to your retailer to find out if your contract has any early termination fees. How much the fee is typically varies depending on how long you have left on your contract.
Fewer electricity retailers charge early exit fees these days since many energy contracts are offered on a no-lock-in, month-to-month basis.
Unlike early exit fees, disconnection fees are charged by your energy distributor, not your energy retailer. Energy distributors supply the electricity and sell it to your retailer, who in turn sells it to you. When you cancel your service, the distributor may charge your energy retailer a disconnection fee. This fee will then be passed on to you.
Your old retailer will need to do a final meter reading to send you a final bill. Disconnection fees cover the cost of checking your energy meter outside of the typical schedule.
If you have a smart meter, your retailer will be able to do this as soon as your contract is cancelled for a small fee. However, if you have a traditional meter, the company will need to send someone out to your property to read the meter, which can cost up to $100 or more. This can take up to three months, depending on where you are in your billing cycle when you cancel.
When should you switch energy retailers?
If you've looked at your latest energy bill and thought to yourself "this is expensive", chances are the cost of your service has increased over time or it was simply never a good deal to begin with.
Many plans also have what's called a "benefit period". This means that at the end of that period (usually after 12 months) any discounts that have been applied may be removed or reduced. And that means that your bill may go up without you even knowing.
The solution? Compare your bill against the market at least once a year and switch energy retailers if and when you need to.
6 reasons to switch
Across most of Australia, there are many energy retailers and plans to choose from, so there's no need to stick with one that you don't like.
There are plenty of reasons to switch from your current retailer and plan to a new one. Here are a few:
- Your energy bill is getting more expensive. The most obvious reason to switch retailers is to save money on your energy bill. Many retailers offer a discounted price when you first sign up, however, this may expire over time – and that's when you need to consider switching.
- Environmental concerns. Every retailer has a different green rating. Switching to one with GreenPower options and a better green track record can decrease the environmental impact of your power usage.
- Better solar options. If you have solar panels, you might be eligible for solar feed-in tariffs. These vary from state to state but also from plan to plan, with some retailers offering a higher tariff than your state's minimum.
- Get a more flexible contract. Many retailers offer no-lock-in contracts and no early termination fees.
- Better customer support. If your current retailer doesn't offer the help you need, look for one that offers 24/7 customer service.
- Consolidate your bills. By choosing a bundled electricity and gas plan, you could save on energy costs with one consolidated statement each month or quarter.
Aussies concerned about their bills
According to recent research by Finder, about 1 in 4 Australians are experiencing bill stress1, and half the population is worried about the impact self-isolation will have on their power bills2. While you could take advantage of your energy retailer's financial hardship program, you may be better off comparing your current plan to others on the market and switching to one with better rates.
How easy is it to switch and save money?
Do you have your energy bill handy? If so, by looking at your usage, you can get a good idea of how much money you could be saving on a better plan. And switching isn't hard. You could be on a cheaper plan in less than 20 minutes.
Let's take a look at Finder Graduate Publisher Maddie's experience to show you how.
Case study: Maddie's experience
Graduate Publisher at Finder Maddie Burke realised that she could save $125 per bill, simply by switching plans.
The total time she spent from comparing to switching was under 20 minutes.
Before she switched
Maddie had been with her previous provider, Origin, for the past six years. She had signed up to a deal that was good at the time, but rates had gone up after her "benefit period" expired.
- Her bill went up roughly 40% after the benefit period.
- She was paying $564 over a three-month period for a two-person household.
- Her daily usage had gone up, but only by 3.63% (from 17.65kWh to 18.29kWh), which meant that it wasn't just her usage going up, but also her rates.
"I spent a couple of minutes finding out if it was my rates or my usage that was causing my high bill. In the end, I found it on my bill."
"While my usage was higher than the average, it wasn't by much, so it made me think my rates had gone up."
Time spent: 10 minutes online
"I hopped onto Finder's comparison engine and used the details on my bill so that I could get prices based on our usage."
"I wanted a plan that was green but I also wanted a good rate, so I narrowed it down to a plan from Powershop."
Here's what Maddie's rough savings would look like if she made a switch.
|Original bill from Origin||$564||$2,256|
|Estimated bill from Powershop||$439||$1,756|
*The prices above are a general guide only. Always check the retailer's website before applying.
Time spent: 10 minutes on the phone
To switch, Maddie called Powershop (although you can do it online too).
"It was pretty straight forward and hands-off. I provided my metering info (NMI) to Powershop and they handled the rest."
How to compare your current plan to a new plan
The easiest way to compare your current plan to a new plan is to use a comparison engine, such as this one from Finder or those on some energy retailers' websites. With your bill in front of you, you'll need the following information:
- Tariff type. Does your bill list peak and off-peak periods? Do you have a controlled load device, like a water heater or pool pump?
- Bill date. The start and end date of your billing period.
- Energy usage. This is your total power usage over the period, or, if you have one of the above tariffs, your usage for each tariff period or type.
Enter those details into a comparison engine and away you go. You'll be able to sort plans by their estimated price based on your current bill and compare different energy retailers.
Know your rights
When switching electricity plans, remember that you have a number of rights as a customer:
- Cooling-off period. All energy plans have a cooling-off period, in which you can back out of the plan with no penalty. New regulations state that the cooling-off period must be at least 10 days long.
- Be explicit. Make sure that when you ring up to enquire about a new energy plan, the retailer doesn't switch you over without your consent. They may take your interest as a desire to buy the plan.
- Don't get pestered. If you don't want to be bothered by telemarketers trying to sell you energy plans, you can sign up to the Australian Government's Do Not Call register.
Can your new retailer raise the price mid-contract?
This depends on what type of contract you have. The majority of energy plans are "variable rate", which means that usage rates can change at any time over the course of your plan, though your provider is required to give you some advance notice.
If you are on a "fixed rate" plan, where your usage and supply rates are frozen for a certain period of time (usually the first 12 months of your contract), your provider won't be able to vary the rates until the fixed rate period has finished.
People sometimes get the wrong idea about what's involved in switching from one retailer to another, and it can convince them to keep paying too much for a bad energy plan. Here are three common misconceptions:
- You'll lose power when you switch. When you switch retailers, you won't lose power or gas during the handover for any period of time. This is because energy retailers are only responsible for the financial aspect of energy. You aren't switching distributors, or whoever is actually supplying energy to your property.
- Switching costs money. Simply switching from one energy plan to another is completely free. The only time you could be charged is if you're on a lock-in contract with an early exit fee associated with it.
- You'll need new equipment. In most cases, your new energy retailer will be able to use the exact same equipment as your old one. The main exception to this is that some plans, especially if you have solar installed, will require a smart meter for energy monitoring if you don't have one already.
Energy switching services are relatively new, but they exist to help you compare your current plan with other plans and find one that works for you. There are two kinds of switching service:
- Official government switching services like this one from NSW are free but mean you have to do all the hard work of switching and staying on top of the deals and plans yourself.
- Paid switching services can do all the work for you but charge a fee.
- You may save hundreds of dollars per year on your energy bills.
- You can be regularly swapped to the best energy plan without lifting a finger.
- Not every switching company compares the entire market.
- Some switching companies prioritise providers that pay commissions.
- You might have to pay an ongoing subscription fee.
- Cheaper providers may have poorer customer service.
Can I choose my own energy and gas retailers in my state?
If you live in NSW, VIC, south-east QLD, the ACT or SA, you can choose between a wide range of energy retailers. Recently, Tasmanians gained the ability to choose between Aurora Energy and 1st Energy.
Keep in mind, if you live in an apartment or unit, you'll already be part of an embedded electricity network so you might not be able to choose your provider regardless of which state you live in.
|State||⚡ Can I choose my electricity retailer?||♨️ Can I choose my gas retailer?|
|New South Wales||Yes.||Yes.|
|Queensland||It depends on where you live. Residents in south-east Queensland can choose from a wide range of retailers. However, those who live in the rest of the state don't have a choice, as Ergon Energy is the only electricity retailer outside of south-east Queensland.||Yes.|
|Tasmania||Until early 2019, all Tasmanian residents were serviced by a single electricity provider, Aurora Energy. However, residents in certain areas can now opt to switch to competitor 1st Energy.||Yes. Customers in certain areas can choose between Aurora Energy and Tas Gas for natural gas services.|
|Australian Capital Territory||Yes.||Yes.|
|Western Australia||Residential customers are unable to choose their electricity retailers in WA. Synergy supplies to the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), and Horizon Power is the only electricity retailer outside of the SWIS. However, businesses in WA do have more options.||Yes.|
|Northern Territory||You can choose in certain areas, although there are minimal options.||It depends on where you live. Customers in certain areas have a limited choice of retailers.|
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