Life becomes quite complicated when you move to a new country. Fortunately, Australia is a very friendly country where people are usually eager to assist. One of your first tasks when you find a residence is setting up electricity and gas accounts. You don’t need to know about all the utility services Australia has to offer to find the best one for you, as you’ll find out here.
Well that depends on where you live. In remote locations, you will have limited choice but in capital cities, for example, you will be able to choose from a number of providers and this will give you a better opportunity to compare pricing and service options.
Usually, tenants have to pay for electricity and gas as they are not included in the rent. Check your tenancy agreement as it will specify who is responsible for payment. There will usually be a reconnection fee for switching on the gas and electricity when you move in and the supplier may ask that you sign a contract. If you have an existing contract with another supplier, you must not sign a new one until the existing one is closed.
It’s always a good idea to use a comparison website, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the utilities service providers in your area. You could try Go Switch, Energy Watch or Electricity Wizard. Each of these sites is run independently, so they will give you the best, objective information, as they are not affiliated with any particular provider. Another great thing is, it’s free to use any of these sites. Plus, they will negotiate on your behalf to secure the best possible price.
Once you land on a comparison website, you’ll be asked to enter your postcode and that will bring up search results for providers in your area.
You can choose to search for providers only for electricity, only for gas or for those who can supply both.
After all, you may live in a property that doesn’t have a gas supply so you won’t need to research those.
You may be asked to provide information on your current utilities provider as well as your expected usage behaviour (for example, ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’).
If your request is urgent, you can call the phone number provided and speak with a consultant immediately, otherwise, you will continue filling out the form and then the results will be provided.
The companies behind comparison websites are very keen to ensure customer satisfaction. Electricity Wizard, for example, offers to pay your exit fees (up to $75 for electricity and $25 for gas) if your utilities provider charges you for closing your contract within six months. They will also connect you with a new supplier.
If you go with one of the comparison websites, then they will make it incredibly easy for you. You will have to provide them with paperwork such as recent bills and personal identification and they will then do all the documentation on your behalf.
But if you have never held an account with an Australian electricity or gas supplier, then you may have to contact the company yourself and provide them with their requested identification documents such as a passport or official statements.
Each of the electricity and gas providers has their own customer service policy. In general, there may be security deposits to pay for connection to either supply. It’s critical that you read your contract before signing it because there may be additional fees to pay that you would otherwise be unaware of. For instance, if your bill payment is overdue, you may have to pay a penalty.
Some suppliers require a surcharge for payment by credit card. If your supply is disconnected due to non-payment of your bill, then a hefty reconnection charge will have to be paid. You may also be charged if you elect to receive paper bills in the mail instead of via email, or paying your bill by direct debit.
If you choose to conduct your own search, always shop around when setting up electricity and gas accounts. There can be some pleasant surprises that you don’t want to miss. Some providers have introductory offers such as $50 discount on your first bill, but be sure that the overall costs are worth this once-off deal. Some retailers reward customers for paying their bills on time by providing a discount for every bill paid by the due date.
You may be able to save money by choosing direct debit and receiving your bill via email. Additionally, if renewable energy is important to you then you will want to shop around for an electricity retailer that can give you an option to select a percentage of your usage to come from renewable sources. You may also save money by purchasing your electricity and gas from the same supplier.
Some suppliers will try to appeal to consumers’ desires to save money up front by offering sign-up discounts, gift voucher rebates and other enticements. However, they may be among the more expensive suppliers so be sure to weigh up all the factors when making your decision.
No matter which energy supplier you choose to sign up with, you are entitled to a ‘cooling-off period’ of ten business days, from the date you signed the contract, to change your mind and cancel with no penalty fees. Perhaps you were pressured into signing, or after signing you found a better deal with another supplier. Not a problem! That’s what the cooling-off period is for.
For more information regarding setting up electricity and gas accounts in Australia, visit the federal government’s Australian Energy Regulator website. There, you’ll find answers to common consumer questions as well as useful contact numbers, how to understand your energy bill and how to make a complaint.