5 tips for wrangling your power bill

Our top tips to help you get a better power deal.

Young girl calling power company about power bill.

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.

Lightbulb on top of power bill.
Comparing energy plans on Powerswitch.org.nz could help you save hundreds on your bill.

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.

Analogue electricity meter.
Moving house? It’s worth taking a photo of the meter reading on the final day at your property in case you run into a dispute with your company.

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.

Could you be saving on power?

Enter your household details to find out how much you could be saving on electricity and gas.


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Member comments

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Jim H.
23 May 2020
Power bill with the same provider...

Hi there, It is all fine and dandy changing providers for a cheaper rate when all you really need to do is spend a little time researching the rates of companies.
If they want your business and you can show them what you have been offered then generally your existing supplier will work hard to keep you.
I share my current bill with prospective providers and ask for their best rate, then play the dutch auction and go back to my current provider, they generally find a way to keep me, that's why I have been with the same company for over 30 years.
Cheers and happy bargaining...

Anne S.
23 May 2020
Power consumption

Our power bill went up 40% when we were switched to a smart meter. Our heating has always been by log burner. We recently shifted from a 50+ year-old hot water cylinder to gas. Our power bill has dropped by less than 15% which doesn't match conventional understanding that hot water is a large part of any bill.

Kevin F.
23 May 2020
Mercury

Offered us a deal ON THE PHONE .Considered it and replyed by E mail .NO i said .
Then offered $270.00 as a loyalty .I took it .!

Sheryl J.
23 May 2020
Early discount prompt payment

Mercury advised I would lose this discount in October because it was un fair on low income people? Is this true.

Consumer staff
27 May 2020
Re: Early discount prompt payment

Hi Sheryl,

Yes, that is correct: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/consumer-protections-in-electricity-market-long-overdue

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff