5 tips for wrangling your power bill
Our top tips to help you get a better power deal.
Your power bill takes up a sizable chunk of your household budget, so it pays to do your homework and check you’re getting the best deal.
1. Don’t pay a loyalty premium
Our latest electricity survey shows most of us have been loyal to the same retailer for several years. Four out of 10 have racked up more than five years of custom with the same company.
So when eye-watering winter power bills arrive, after we’ve picked ourselves up off the floor, we just grumble and pay up.
But loyalty doesn’t pay. If you’ve stuck with the same company for years, there’s a good chance you’re paying more than you need to.
Power companies don’t make comparing plans and prices easy. After all, it’s good for business if customers stay put because shopping around is too difficult.
The good news is you don’t have to rely on power companies to provide this information.
Powerswitch.org.nz is our free energy-comparison website. All you need to do is enter a few basic details about your power use and away you go.
Comparing the cheapest and most expensive power plans in the three main centres, we found annual savings of at least $360 could be had for a three- to four-person household – a nice chunk of change that could be used for other household spending.
2. Don’t be shy about haggling
Many of us feel uneasy asking for a better deal – don’t. Treat advertised deals as a starting point. Ask a retailer if it can throw in any extras. If a company really wants your business, you might be offered a sweetener or discount to get your signature on the dotted line.
3. Check the fine print
“Special” deals are a common enticement that power retailers use. However, you often need to sign up for a fixed term, typically 12 or 24 months, to qualify for these offers.
Before you sign up, work out what the total cost of the plan will be, then check how it compares with what you’re already paying annually.
Also check for early-termination fees – the price you’ll have to pay if you want to get out of the deal early. Fees can run to $250 or more, so they can wipe out any savings if you want to pull the plug on the company sooner than expected.
Retailers need to be upfront about these fees, otherwise they risk misleading you about the terms of the deal and breaching the Fair Trading Act.
4. Check your bill
Even though most households now have smart meters, which are more reliable than the old analogue models, billing mistakes still happen – and it’s not as rare as you might think. Fourteen percent of consumers in our latest electricity survey reported a problem with their power bill in the past year.
Always review your bills to see what you’re paying and make sure there are no unexpected charges.
If you’re moving house, take a reading of the electricity meter at your property on the day you move out and read the meter at the new property on the day you move in. Provide these to your power company. It’s worth getting your phone out and taking photos of both meter readings in case you run into a dispute with the company.
When your bills arrive, make sure everything matches. The last thing you want is to pay for power someone else has used.
5. Know your rights
Don’t put up with sub-par service. The Consumer Guarantees Act give you rights to products of a decent standard and applies to power companies.
If you’re not getting the promised service or there’s a mistake with your bill, your first stop is contacting your power company and asking for the problem to be fixed.
If that doesn’t work, take the matter to Utilities Disputes (0800 22 33 40). The free service deals with disputes between consumers and power companies. All power companies must belong to the service and are bound by its decisions.
For more on your rights with power companies, check out our guide.
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