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Households struggling with increased energy costs

Tips for swapping retailers

As government staggers toward a solution for Australia’s energy woes, online energy brokers are reporting a large increase in the number of calls from business and residential consumers desperate to secure a better deal from energy retailers

Corporate Affairs manager for online comparison service, iSelect, Laura Crowden, recently spoke to The Bulletin and revealed that over the 2017 June to August billing period, iSelect had received a 26 percent increase in the number of inquiries compared with the same period last year.

This year iSelect assisted over 16,000 customers to find a cheaper energy plan. While most online inquirers were introduced to a new retailer, about 20% were helped to find better deal from their existing supplier.

There were also many consumers already on better deals, but had not been told by their provider that their plan would automatically revert to a more expensive, standard version on expiry.

“This is known in our industry as the lazy tax,” said Laura. “It allows retailers to profit from not keeping customers better informed. Householders and businesses need to be much more proactive these days and keep a closer watch on their energy providers.”

iSelect research shows that more NSW households are worried about their energy bill this winter than last year, partly due to the latest price hikes which will see customers in NSW paying up to 17 per cent more.

One in five households going into debt or hardship program

“With homeowners shivering through another cold winter, it’s concerning that over two million NSW households may be using their heating less due to concerns about energy costs,”

“And it’s not just heating,” Laura said, “our study suggests that many NSW households are also cutting back on essentials like food and clothing to afford their energy bills.”

Despite making cut-backs, almost one in five NSW households reported going into debt, or being placed on a hardship program during the past 12 months as a result of rising energy bills.

Laura pointed out that while winter energy costs are clearly hurting NSW households, just 16 per cent of homes surveyed had switched providers or plan in the last year to get a better deal.

“Thousands of NSW households could be paying more than they need to for energy by not taking advantage of some of the generous introductory offers or discounts energy companies are offering to new customers.“

Laura offered 5 tips for finding a better deal.

  1. Save money with the right plan – reducing your consumption won’t necessarily reduce your bill significantly. The best way to save money is to make sure you are on the best value plan to begin with.
  2. Use a flexible payment option – pay your bills weekly, fortnightly or monthly, or sign up for bill smoothing which will divide your annual usage into even monthly installments, avoiding bill shock.
  3. Be wary of pay on time discounts – paying on time could save you up 30 per cent but if you often pay your bills late, you could end up paying a lot more than you expected
  4. Look out for special offers – increased competition means some retailers are offering generous introductory offers or rebates to entice new customers such as credit towards your account
  5. Shop around – use increased energy competition to your advantage by comparing current offers. Call an energy comparison service like iSelect and make sure you have a copy of your latest bill handy

How to switch your plan or retailer

Readers experiencing difficulty with energy bills, and needing advice on how to switch, can consult a number of online energy advisors for help and to compare retailers and plans.

Some of these sites will also offer advice and assistance over the phone.

Here are few to get started:

www.home.iSelect
www.energywatch.com.au/energy/comparison‎
— part of iSelect group
www.businessenergymarketplace.com/BEM‎
https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au
https://www.aer.gov.au/consumers/switching-retailers/comparing-offers
https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/shopping-for-services/utilities/articles/shopping-around-for-a-new-energy-deal

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