How does CHOICE Transformer work?
Transformer is unlike other
sites as it offers an ongoing, customer-focused switching service, with a
comprehensive view of the market. This means:
Transformer takes all of your bill details and accurately prices
your current electricity costs.
It then searches every policy on the market to find the best deal
for you. It prices these and compares them to your current costs.
If Transformer finds a deal that offers savings equal to or above
the $99 annual subscription fee, you'll be asked if you'd like to
The switching is done for you.
The Transformer team continue to monitor deals in the market and
will keep switching you every 90 days if there's a better offer, so
you keep saving.
Accurately prices your current costs
Most comparison sites simply estimate your energy consumption and then look
for the best deal from a limited set of offers, without truly comparing it
to the prices you're already paying.
"As such they cannot accurately estimate the savings customers get from
switching to the best offers or, indeed, whether customers are actually any
better off from switching," says associate professor Bruce Mountain, director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre and co-founder of MI Retail
Energy (the software that underpins Transformer).
Transformer is different as it logs all the details from your current bill,
including your electricity usage, tariff structure and type, rates and
discounts and other details like controlled loads or having solar. It uses
these to accurately price your current electricity costs, and compare these
with the whole market.
Searches every policy and updates deals daily
Every day the software used by Transformer scans and updates every deal
that's publicly available to the market, and logs all price adjustments for
If you submit your bill for a comparison, the software narrows the field of
offers through filtering, taking account of your tariff type and structure,
your distribution region and other relevant details such as whether you
have solar. All competing offers are priced and compared to your current
Keeps checking for the best deal and does the switching for
Every 90 days Transformer searches for a better deal for you. If one is
found and you approve it, we'll switch you again.
Six months into Harry Korpetutuncu being with Transformer, GloBird increased the rates on their original offer.
Transformer then found a deal with Alinta that saved Harry a further $150. Harry approved the change of energy company, and Transformer arranged the switch.
"I think $99 is a good investment going forward. Straight away that $99
goes 'tick', I don't have to worry about my energy bill," he says.
When retailers quietly change their prices, Transformer knows
Energy tariffs are adjusted regularly, so the good deal you signed up to can erode over time. These price changes can be easily missed, as energy providers don't often explicitly tell you when it's changed.
Standard offers can be adjusted every six months and market offers can change at any time – even after you've signed up.
Transformer scans the whole market to assess price adjustments and new deals every day making it possible to find you the very best deal available when your bill is compared to all relevant offers every 90 days.
Tailors results for preferences
While Transformer is underpinned by patented software, the service is delivered by CHOICE staff, who can factor in your personal preferences to the comparison and recommendations.
For instance, you may want to avoid a particular retailer or choose one that shows strong support for renewable energy.
"You don't sign up until you know there is a saving for you. I trust CHOICE because I've been a member with them for many years," Belinda says.
Why people are using Transformer
Trust and experience
CHOICE has been fighting for a fair deal for Australians for over 50 years
and we've identified electricity as a market in which householders get a
Transformer's only client is you. The fee for service means there's no need
for kickbacks or commissions from energy retailers.
"I've never trusted the other companies, because once there's a commercial
arrangement, straight away there's a conflict of interest," says
CHOICE member Belinda Barrie lives with her mother and husband in the
Lockyer Valley, Queensland. After sticking with Origin for a number of
years, she felt it was time to find a better deal.
Belinda tried other comparison sites but because they were paid commissions, she thought they might not give her the best deal and felt CHOICE would provide a fairer opinion.
Once her bill was submitted and analysed, the Transformer team contacted
Belinda to say she could save $700 by switching to a new plan.
"I have solar so they took that onboard when they took my details. They
came back really quickly with the savings and I made the decision to swap,"
Help cutting through confusing deals
When it comes to comparing energy deals, why don't Australians simply do it
Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as comparing apples with apples. A 2017
Victorian government review into that state's electricity market found that
it's difficult for customers to make accurate comparisons.
CHOICE member Harry Korpetutuncu agrees. "One company can quote you 20c per kWh and you might compare that
to another that charges 26c per kWh, but with a pay on time discount of
This sentiment is echoed by energy economist, Bruce Mountain. "It's very hard for customers to
know whether they are getting a good deal since the discounts are difficult
to work out, and customers don't know how the pre-discount price compares
to the prices in the market."
A recent rule change bans discounts that are designed to lure
consumers in, but that actually charge higher than the retailer's standard rates.
As of July 2018, this change will ban energy retailers from offering pseudo discounts
on inflated base rates that are above standard rates. These so-called deals are attractive to consumers,
but in reality cost more than the retailer's standard rates.
While this is better for consumers, the rule change doesn't address a large number of other discounts that make it difficult to understand just how much your power costs.
Other complexities that make it hard to compare energy deals include:
- incentives ('your 12th month of electricity is free')
- exit fees
- GreenPower rates
- regional differences
- many different tariff
types, structures and offers.
Saving you money
Harry was invited to take part in the Transformer pilot project in April 2017. At the time he wanted a cheaper energy deal and he'd already looked at some of the commercial comparison sites.
Harry took up the invitation and submitted his EnergyAustralia bill to the Transformer team at CHOICE. After logging his electricity usage, bill details and current costs, we found a deal with energy retailer Globird that offered annual savings of $500. He accepted the deal and the Transformer team switched him over.
"You couldn't do this on your own," Harry says. "The Transformer team look at a previous bill, they know how much you're paying and your average use."
When asked if he had any qualms about handing over his energy bill and usage details to a third party, he replied, "I'd have more qualms about handing over that information with your name, address, power usage and rates etc. to the other companies.
"As CHOICE is a consumer advocate, I feel more confident with it. And I'm reasonably confident that the service is going to be beneficial to me."
Other comparison sites are driven by profit
As we've reported in a previous article,
profit-driven energy comparison sites
such as iSelect, Compare the Market and Finder have some flaws:
- They only compare a small portion of energy providers.
- The prices quoted vary widely and you may not get the best offer
- They're hard to compare because they calculate quotes using
- Ts&Cs may not be properly explained.
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