For a fee, consumer advocacy group analyzes prices from electricity retailers and switches users to most economic deals
The consumer group Choice has launched a $99 service to compare prices from electricity retailers, monitor them for 12 months and automatically switch subscribers to the best deal.
Canisaveonenergy.com.au allows consumers to upload a recent power bill PDF and find out how much they could save with a new service based on a price comparison from 33 providers. However, they won’t be told which retailer is offering the best deal unless they pay the annual fee.
After the $99 fee is paid, Choice will handle the switch and also any subsequent switches to better deals within that 12 months.
Guardian Australia tested the new service with quarterly electricity and gas bills worth a combined $517.97. Choice analysed the bill and advised that an immediate switch to a new provider would save $271 a year. Less the $99 fee, that is a saving of $172.
Choice’s head of media, Tom Godfrey, said bigger savings could be unlocked by switching providers every three months or so, which was what the Choice Transformer tool was designed to do.
He said prelaunch testing of the “concierge service” software found savings of up to $1,500 for individual households. Research Choice conducted with MI Retail concluded that Australian households were paying an average of $324 more than they needed on energy every year.
The new product, which was developed with Dr Bruce Mountain of Carbon and Energy Markets, is aimed squarely at disrupting the household electricity retail market where 12 or 24-month contracts are on the rise.
“Staying on the same energy plan long-term is the most expensive option,” Godfrey said. “You really only save when you move every quarter.”
He said it was difficult enough for many consumers to take the information on a bill and compare to offers from dozens of retailers, let alone doing it every 12 weeks.
“Our service dynamically scans all the available deals on the market without you having to decipher the technical jargon,” Godfrey said.
“If we can save you more than $99 you can pay for us to continue to monitor the market for you for the next 12 months. Every time we find you a better deal, we’ll change providers for you.”
Godfrey said Choice was not satisfied with the current price comparison sites for energy. “We don’t have commission, which none of the others can claim,” he said.
“There are hidden costs with commercial sites. By not giving commissions to energy companies, and charging a $99 annual fee, we are able to put consumers first and give them a bigger share of the savings on offer.”
When asked how much money Choice expected to make from the service, Godfrey said: “We are trying to make a point rather than money … what we want to do is encourage energy retailers to keep giving consumers better value.”
At launch, the service is available in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia or south-east Queensland. The service works best with energy bills in PDF format as supplied by the retailer, although Choice is hoping to be able to add the ability to rapidly process photos of paper bills in the future.
Canisaveonenergy.com.au joins Choice’s two existing “disruptive tools”: cluckar.com, which lets shoppers check free range egg claims and has had more than 1m scans and 100,000 downloads; and doineedhealthinsurance.com.au, which more than 125,000 people have completed.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Lead Image: Energy savings stock photo from sirastock/Shutterstock
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