Choosing a contract

Contract checklist

Tariff

How does the tariff compare with what you are currently paying? To do this consider:

  • your type of meter (if you have a smart meter, check that the retailer offers off peak/shoulder/peak rates
  • your usage patterns (eg. most of your usage is during the day in shoulder/peak periods)
  • your hot water service (eg. can you take advantage of cheaper off-peak rates?)
Future tariff increases Check which part of the rate is fixed and which is subject to change. While the retail tariff component that relates to your usage may be fixed, you will be liable to pay for any increases to the network component of your tariff (eg. the retailer is obliged to pass on annual increases to the service availability or supply charge
Contract terms Check how long the contract lasts and what happens when the contract expires. Does the retailer automatically roll over the contract and if so, what rate will you be paying?
Moving house Check to see if you are able to transfer the contract to another property and if there are any fees associated with this. Note that some retailers charge a disconnection fee when customers leave a property.
Billing Check how often you will receive a bill as this can vary between companies (from once a month to once every six months).
Payment Check how the retailer accepts payment (eg do they offer direct debit, can you pay your bill at the post office). Note that some retailers charge a fee for payments made by credit card.
Fees and charges Some contracts may include a range of fixed charges such as a special meter reading fee to start the contract, a monthly fee if you don’t agree to pay by direct debit, an account establishment fee and late payment fees.
Early termination fees If you cancel a contract early, you may have to pay a fee. The fee must be specified in the terms and conditions before you agree to or sign a contract.
Pensioner rebate If you are entitled to a rebate, you should check with the retailer about how this is paid. The rebate can be paid quarterly, annually or every six months and this may affect your finances. If you choose to enter into a contract, check that your pension details have been applied to your account.

Switching or comparator websites

The Australian Energy Regulator maintains a free comparator website www.energymadeeasy.gov.au where NSW customers compare offers from electricity and gas retailers.

There are a number of other commercial energy comparison websites which offer services to customers wanting to switch retailers. Many of the commercial websites that provide this service do not charge the customer a fee, however they typically receive a broker’s commission from participating energy retailers or their ‘preferred suppliers’.

If you are considering using a broker, ensure you have read and understood the terms and conditions of using their service. Due to the constantly changing nature of energy products, they may not be able to guarantee that the deal they offer you is the ‘cheapest’ or the ‘best’ product the retailer currently offers.

Glossary of terms

  • Distributor: The company that owns the network and supplies electricity and/or gas to your home.
  • Green energy: Renewable or green energy is produced from sources such as the sun, wind, water and waste.
  • Retailer: The company that bills you for electricity and/or gas.
  • Marketer: The salesperson who contacts you on behalf of an energy retailer. They must follow the rules contained in the Marketing Code.
  • Market contract: An energy supply agreement entered into between you and a retailer.
  • Regulated offer: The gas or electricity contract offered by your ‘regulated retailer’ under a Standard Customer Contract. The terms and conditions of this contract are determined by IPART. Your regulated retailer is the energy retailer that has historically supplied electricity and/or gas in your area and will supply you with electricity and/or gas if you do not enter into a market contract.
  • Standard Customer Contract: The contract you enter into with the standard retailer for the area when you move into a property and use electricity or gas. The rates for these contracts are regulated by IPART.
  • Standard retailer: The retailer responsible by law for supplying you with gas or electricity under a standard form contract.
  • Standing offer: A retailer's standard retail contract for small customers. The prices for these offers are not regulated, and may be higher than more competitive discounted tariffs offered with market contracts.

 


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