Heating   energy hero
27 March 2015

Opinion: That wasn't the plan

Scott Feehan explains how his energy plan switch went wrong.

I spent more than 10 weeks watching Genesis Energy and Contact Energy make a complete dog’s breakfast of a simple electricity and gas switch last year. Surely this hadn’t gone even worse than I’d thought.

I wrote an opinion piece halfway through the 2014 switch process. To recap, having initiated a switch on 21 May 2014 via Powerswitch, we got confirmation on 1 August 2014 that we were now, slightly frazzled, Contact Energy customers. We relaxed knowing we’d be saving money each month and collecting Fly Buys points - one of the incentives for choosing Contact.

Since then I’d been slack.

My Contact bills arrived but things didn’t feel any cheaper than they did with Genesis. The best part of 5 months went by before I did anything. I finally got in touch with Contact and they suggested switching to another plan. I took a while to reply but I’m pleased I did.

A colleague tracked down the switch request email generated by Powerswitch when I decided to switch in May 2014. The emails are sent to your new provider to give them plan instructions. For our usage, Powerswitch selected a Contact plan termed “low usage”, plus we’d get online on-time discounting.

So I was shocked to find the Powerswitch request from 21 May 2014 stated a different plan to my bill. In fact, the plan Powerswitch selected was the plan Contact Energy were now suggesting I change to!

Sigh, here we go again.

So I got in touch with Contact and said we appeared to have been placed on the wrong plan right from day one. I also highlighted this was the plan they suggested I switch to.

To give Contact credit, they recognised this was their error. They said they’d recalculate all invoices since we joined and after doing so offered a credit of $697. We could leave this with them as a credit or have it paid out. I decided to take the money back because we may want to switch again.

What did I learn?

I’d like to think we had an extraordinarily poor switching experience and hopefully most consumers would be fine, but I recommend the following:

  • Keep your Powerswitch switching request email for at least 6 months.
  • Check the first couple of invoices and make sure the plan names match up with those on your Powerswitch email. If not, query even minor differences in the name of a plan.
  • After 3 or 4 invoices, make sure the saving you expected is starting to occur. If not, it might be power prices have changed or you could have a situation like mine.
  • If the saving is still not happening, re-input your new invoice details into Powerswitch.
  • Check out Consumer’s Energy Providers survey results before switching. In my case, customer service scores were ignored and I regret it!

In summary, while I’m a fan of digital bills landing in my inbox I think it causes many of us to accept an invoice at face value and not check it thoroughly. I’ve got to raise my hand on that last point.

If I’d swapped after a year, that would have been a significant amount lost. It’s worth checking your invoices and, if you’ve switched providers recently, I’d put aside a few minutes to make sure all the details look correct.

Switch wisely.

About the author:

Scott Feehan is responsible for managing our technology infrastructure, website strategies and developments. Scott has a mix of experience having worked in the financial and advertising sectors, including 10+ years managing technology and web site initiatives. Scott has a keen interest in website usability, cloud based solutions and is an active social media user, particularly Twitter.

Scott’s favourite web services include – Trello, Evernote, Basecamp, Tweetdeck and Liveplasma. Favourite apps include Trade Me, Cricinfo, Air New Zealand, Pandora, Untappd, Yelp and Flightradar24.

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