Electricity and gas

Choosing an energy retailer

There are many important things to consider when choosing a retailer.

You may be looking for the biggest discount, cheapest tariff rate, a short contract length, monthly billing or no exit fees when you switch retailers. Everyone’s needs are different and so it pays to do your research before making a decision.

We have put together some tips for comparing retailers together with details on an independent plan comparison service and the process of switching retailers.

What is a retailer?

Electricity and gas consumers in South Australia buy their energy from retailers.

Electricity and gas retailers do not usually own the wires, poles, or pipes. They buy the energy wholesale from a distributor and then sell it on to you.

Changing your retailer means that you are changing the entity that sells you electricity or gas (and sends you the bills) only.

It does not change the wires, poles or pipes used to deliver the electricity or gas, or affect the reliability or quality of your supply.

Comparing offers from retailers

Retailers offer many different contracts and plans.

It is important to compare costs, payment options, customer service levels and other criteria to ensure you choose the retailer that best meets your needs.

Do not base your decision solely on the discounts that a retailer may offer. Look at the price per kilowatt-hour for electricity, or per megajoule for gas along with the discounts or benefits that they are offering.

Compare them to your current plan to make sure the new price is better.

Keep in mind that some retailers will offer discounts or other incentives to entice you to join, but also may ask you to commit to staying with them for a fixed number of years. The price may also be increased during the term of your plan.

If at some point you want to change retailers before the contract period is up, they may also charge you an exit fee.

Fees and charges

The South Australian energy market currently does not have regulated prices.

It is very important to understand the pricing structure that the retailer is offering you and read the terms and conditions of the contract or plan your retailer will send you.

When it comes to the retailer’s ability to increase prices or charge fees, the retailer can only do so as set out in the contract or plan you sign.

Comparison services

Comparison services are a useful way to find out about plans offered by different electricity and gas retailers.

Be aware, however, that some comparison services may not show plans from all retailers or may receive a commission from certain retailers.

There is an independent service run by the Australian Energy Regulator called Energy Made Easy that provides information about all authorised electricity and gas retailers in South Australia.

Switching retailers

Many people think switching retailers is a difficult and time-consuming process, but it is not.

Once you have accepted a contract with your new retailer, you will receive one last bill from your current retailer.

The final bill will arrive shortly after your next scheduled meter read. It could take between two weeks and three months.

The bill after that final bill should be from your newly chosen retailer.

If you are entitled to a State Government concession and switch to a different supplier, you will need to contact Concessions SA to facilitate the transfer of your payment. Please refer to Department of Human Services for more information.


Connecting your energy

Establishing a new account or moving an existing account doesn't have to be a difficult or time-consuming process.

Read through our tips and remember, that it is important you allow the retailer enough time to arrange your connection. Contact them at least a few days ahead of your required connection date.

Opening an account

Choosing an electricity or gas retailer

Shop around to find the retailer that best meets your needs. You can usually open a new account over the phone. Simply contact the retailer you want your supply to be with.

You may be in a building that has a contract with one retailer to supply electricity to all tenancies or a bulk hot water service using gas. If this is the case, you may not be able to change retailers, and should contact your property manager or body corporate for further information.

Visit the Australian Energy Regulator to see a full list of retailers, and information on buying electricity or gas from an on-seller.

Choosing a contract

Make sure you read any contract carefully before signing, ensuring that you understand and agree to the terms and conditions. A contract is legally binding, so do not agree to it if you are unsure or the terms and conditions are not what you expected.

Establish your identity

You must provide your retailer with your name and contact details for billing. They may also ask for an acceptable form of identification such as a driver’s licence (or other photo identification).

Concessions

If you are eligible for an energy concession you should contact the Concessions SA Hotline on 1800 307 758 or refer to Department of Human Services for more information.

You should check each bill to make sure correct concessions have been applied.

Establish authorised contacts

You may want to add a partner, spouse or flat mate as an ‘authorised person’ on your account to allow them to speak with your retailer. Should an issue or query arise, retailers can only talk to you or any authorised people about your account.

Security deposits

Retailers may require security deposits from you if you have outstanding debts. Your security deposit will be refunded once you have established a good payment record.

Moving in tips
  • Take a photo or write down the meter number and meter reading when you first move in and then check them against your first bill.
  • Ensure you read all mail that you receive from any electricity or gas retailer (even if it is addressed 'Dear Customer' or 'Dear Occupier') as it may alert you to a problem. Address any issues as early as possible.
  • If you are in a rental agreement that states your landlord is responsible for paying your electricity or gas bills and your landlord fails to pay, you may be threatened with disconnection.
  • You are responsible for providing safe, clear access to your electricity meter and gas meter. If the meters are not accessible, your bills may be estimated. Contact your supplier to discuss access options.
Moving out tips
  • Contact your supplier at least three days before moving out to cancel or transfer your account. If you do not do so they may continue to charge you for the electricity or gas used at the property.
  • Make sure you give your supplier a forwarding address for them to send you the final bill.
  • The supplier may charge you an exit fee if you are breaking a fixed term contract – refer to your contract terms and conditions for more information.
  • Take a photo for proof or write down the meter reading as you leave the property and then check this against your final bill.

You are responsible for providing safe, clear access to your electricity meter and gas meter. If the meters are not accessible, your accounts may remain open until actual reads can be taken.

Connecting your energy to a new property

If you are building a new property and need to establish a new electricity or gas supply, there are several factors to take into consideration.

You will need to work with an electricity or gas contractor to establish the energy needs of the property and depending on the situation, you may also need to contribute to the cost of any capital works required to establish the supply.

Your chosen retailer will submit a request for connection once you have contacted them to establish an account and our tips below should help you avoid delays.

Connections

To connect or disconnect your electricity or gas when you move house, you need to contact your retailer.

If you are demolishing a property, you will need to ask your retailer about the process for the removal of any existing electricity or gas meters, and the re-installation of meters when the property development is finished.

Establishing an account

The Australian Energy Regulator's website has a full list of authorised retailers.

Once you have contacted your chosen retailer and selected either a Standard or Market contract, your new account will be established and your retailer will submit a service order to begin your connection.

Choosing an energy contract

As all consumers are different, there is no single contract that will be best for everyone. Read the information below to assist your decision.

To avoid any confusion, we suggest that you consider the features of a contract, ask questions of the retailer and read the terms and conditions before you accept a contract.

If you enter into a contract and reconsider, you can still cancel the contract within the 10 business day cooling off period if you change your mind.

Contract types

Three types of electricity or gas contracts are available in South Australia.

1. Standard retail contracts

These are basic contracts available to all South Australians.

Legislation sets out model terms and conditions for standard retail contracts, including the minimum standards of protection to customers as well as their obligations.

Retailers cannot change these terms and conditions.

Each retailer is required to offer at least one contract that follows the terms and conditions of the standard retail contract model. However, it is unlikely they are called a standard retail contract. The retailer will have their own name for this type of agreement.

The pricing under a standard retail contracts is set by the retailer.

The contract must be ongoing, with no exit fee applied if you choose to change retailers at any time.

If you have not actively negotiated a new contract with an electricity or gas retailer, then you may be on a standard retail contract. Check your bill or contact your retailer if you are unsure what plan you are on.

While a standard retail contract may not be suitable for all customers, it may be of use if you will only occupy a property for a short period, and do not want to pay an exit fee when you move.

2. Market retail contracts

Market retail contracts (often called ‘plans’) are the most common type of energy plan available.

Market retail contracts can vary greatly and each retailer may offer several plans with differing tariff rates, fees, discounts, billing frequencies, payment arrangements, contract lengths, penalties for early termination/cancellation or a different type of meter.

While market retail contracts can vary, they must still comply with the minimum consumer protection requirements specified in the National Energy Retail Rules.

Your retailer must give you a Customer Charter that clearly outlines these minimum terms and conditions.

Due to the variations between plans and retailers, it is important for you to find a retailer and a plan that best suits your needs. For example, you may not mind being committed to one retailer for a fixed period if it means you will receive a cheaper rate or a larger discount.

3. Deemed customer retail arrangements

If you move into a property and use electricity or gas without having contacted a retailer to set up an account, you will be deemed to have an arrangement with the retailer currently supplying the property (usually the last retailer used by the previous residents).

As soon as the retailer becomes aware that electricity or gas is being consumed at the property, they should contact you and provide you with information including prices, terms and condition of the deemed customer retailer arrangement as well as options for establishing a retail contract.

The retailer will likely contact you via letters addressed to ‘Dear Customer’ or ‘Dear Occupier’.

Be sure to contact the retailer as soon as possible as the payment for electricity and gas used at the property is your responsibility. The retailer may disconnect your supply if payment is not made or you do not put the account in your name or transfer away.

You MUST enter into a retail contract for your electricity and gas, be it a market or a standard contract. You cannot continue with a deemed retail arrangement. After a period of time if you have not made arrangements to enter into a market or standard contact and you continue to consume energy under a deemed retail arrangement, supply will be disconnected.

Retailers usually charge higher rates under deemed arrangements.

Therefore, it is important to plan ahead and contact your chosen electricity and gas retailer(s) to establish accounts and choose contracts before you move into a property.

Important tips

Compare contracts

Read all offers carefully. The Australian Energy Regulator’s price comparison service Energy Made Easy is an independent way to compare contracts offered by all retailers.

10 day cooling off period

All electricity and gas contracts have a 10-day cooling off period. If you change your mind, you can cancel the contract within 10 business days without paying any cancellation or exit fees. You should put your cancellation in writing and keep a copy as a record.

Disclosure statements

Your retailer must give you a single, written, plain English statement that explains the key terms of the contract including prices, fees and charges and the term of the contract as soon as practicable.

Transferring retailers

Check with your current retailer if any exit fees apply before accepting a contract with a new retailer.

Once you have accepted a contract with the retailer you have chosen, you will receive one last bill from your current retailer.

The final bill will arrive shortly after your next scheduled meter read. It could take between two weeks and three months. The bill after that final bill should be from your newly chosen retailer.

Concessions

If you receive a concession rebate from your current energy retailer, you will need to provide details to your new retailer when you transfer.

You may need to reapply for your concession through the Department of Human Services on 1800 307 758.

Read the fine print and take your time

A contract is legally binding, so read it carefully and only accept it when you understand what you are agreeing to. If a marketer pressures or misleads you, contact the retailer they represent to make a complaint.

What happens when your contract ends?

Your retailer must give you at least 20 and no more than 40 days’ notice when your contract is ending. You can then choose to accept a new contract with them, or change to a different contract or retailer. If you choose not to act on the notice, your retailer may automatically roll you on to a similar contract with them until you make other arrangements.