04.TAS, VIC, SA and WA
There is competition, with 10 retailers and distributors currently providing consumers with electricity. Last year the switching rate was about 17%. Most residential customers are on a market contract (with most having changed to a new entrant); by mid-2008 just one in three were paying regulated tariffs. The Australian Energy Regulator’s 2009 report found SA retailers tended to offer the biggest discounts off the regulated price – up to $220 per year. South Australians can compare prices at Essential Services Commission’s price estimator.
Using that website, we found that for a household consuming roughly 8000 kWh per year, the difference between the best and worst market prices is about 21%. With prices changing regularly, we recommend you scrutinise the site for the cheapest deals.
Aurora Energy, the government-owned retailer, controls the small customer market in Tasmania. Legislation prevents new entrants from supplying small customers, but switching is possible for businesses. The Tasmanian government has yet to decide whether to extend competition to all customers.
According to the St Vincent de Paul Society's Victorian Energy Prices report the price the average Victorian household has experienced an increase of more than $300 during 2008 - 2010 period.
Victoria is the least regulated state for tariffs; with government control of retail pricing removed in January 2009, providers are free to set whatever prices they like. Victoria reportedly has the highest switching rate of any energy retail market in the world. Around 26% of small customers changed during 2008-09. Some people paying a market rate are paying too much and should think about switching. But, if you don’t have your wits about you, you may get tricked into an even more expensive plan.
Paterson says smoke and mirrors in pricing is a problem in Australia’s least regulated state. “TRUenergy sold its ‘Value Bundle’ plan door-to-door, marketing it as having an 11% discount. However, that discount was not based on a standard retail price, but on a more expensive plan with artificially high rates.” TRUenergy argues its marketing material carried a reference to Value Bundle having a new tariff, and that “salespeople were instructed to inform customers of that fact.”
Consumers in Victoria can compare prices by visiting the Your Choice website.
There are a range of suppliers in WA but switching only applies for large business customers; the government-owned Synergy has 96% of small customers. The Office of Energy reviewed the electricity market in 2008 and 2009, and has considered the possibility of introducing full retail contestability. However, here have been no announcements as to the likely timing of this.