Choosing and switching providers

Shop around

There are a wide range of deals available when you are choosing energy providers, so it pays to shop around.

If you think you are paying too much for your electricity, you should consider switching providers. You can do this by visiting Consumer NZ's Powerswitch website or the Electricity Authority's What's my number website. This will help you work out which power company and pricing plan is best for you and can help you make the switch.

Read the small print

Every energy retailer has a customer contract that outlines your rights and obligations and their responsibilities to you as a customer. Make sure you carefully read the contract before you sign up and pay particular attention to details such as special introductory offers or termination fees if you leave the contract early.

The Commission can take action to stop businesses using unfair contract terms in standard form consumer contracts. If you have had little or no opportunity to negotiate the terms of your contract with your supplier and you are not using electricity in production or for resupply then you are likely to have entered a standard form consumer contract.

Generally a term is unfair if it puts you at an unfair advantage by creating a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations between you and the business, if it would cause you detriment if the business relied on it and the term is not reasonably necessary to protect the business needs. Terms that are unclear or hidden are more likely to be unfair than terms that are upfront and written in plain language.

The Electricity Authority also has standards around the contracts retailers have with customers.

Tips for being more energy efficient

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has handy energy reduction tips including ways to save on your hot water, lighting and how to use your appliances more efficiently. Learn more at their Energywise website.

Payments and billing

Price increases

We often get complaints about pricing. Electricity and gas retailers are allowed to put their prices up, provided they do not mislead you in doing so. If you think you have been misled see the resolving issues tab to find out what you can do. If you are concerned you are paying too much for your electricity, see the choosing and switching tab to learn more.

Incorrect billing

As a consumer you should get what you pay for and receive a clear and understandable bill, free from hidden charges. We advise consumers to read their bills to ensure what you are charged is accurate. If you identify incorrect charges, ask your provider for an explanation. If they are unable to resolve your issue, check out your options under the resolving issues tab.

What's included in your electricity bill

Getting power to your home or business is a complex process. Electricity is first generated from a variety of sources, before being transmitted across the national grid, distributed down the power lines and sold to you. Your electricity bill reflects the amount of electricity you use and covers all the different processes involved in getting electricity from a power station to your home. It also includes a small levy for the Electricity Authority's work to regulate the electricity industry (you can read more about the levy on their website). In some parts of New Zealand, distribution businesses bill customers separately for distribution charges, so this isn't included in the bill from your electricity retailer. The Electricity Authority also has information showing all the different components that make up your power bill.

Resolving issues with electricity and gas services

If you have an issue with your electricity or gas service, you should contact your provider in the first instance. Issues could include incorrect billing, being mislead about your electricity or gas service or your electricity and gas service not being of an acceptable quality.

If it is in their control or responsibility, they are required to resolve the issue within a reasonable timeframe. If not, you may be able to cancel the service and seek reimbursement.

The Consumer Guarantees Act

Know your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) before you contact your provider. Telling your provider how you want your issue resolved is also useful. Under the CGA the gas and electricity you receive must be safe and reliable and of an acceptable quality. If this guarantee is breached, your energy retailer has an obligation to sort the problem out. You may also be entitled to a legal remedy of the breach. You can find out more at Consumer Protection.

Making a complaint

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your provider there are a range of options available to you, including:

Utilities Disputes provides a free and independent dispute resolution service. You can contact them by calling 0800 22 33 40 or visiting their website.

The Commerce Commission is not a dispute resolution service, however the information you supply can help us prevent misleading and anti-competitive behaviour by energy companies. We may also be able take action in relation to any unfair contract terms in standard form consumer contracts. You can report a business or person to us by completing our complaint form, emailing, or calling us on 0800 943 600.

Citizens Advice Bureau

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you if you're having problems with your energy bills and want to understand what your rights and options are.

Visit the Citizens Advice Bureau website or contact them by phone on 0800 367 222.

The Commission's role

We are responsible for enforcing the Fair Trading Act and Commerce Act, which help ensure markets work well and consumers and businesses are confident market participants.

We can look into complaints that an electricity business has misled or deceived you in certain situations. We may use this information to open an investigation. You can make a report to us by calling us on 0800 943 600 or filling out a complaint form. We may also apply to the Court to have contract terms declared unfair.

We can also look into concerns an electricity business is using its market power to drive a competitor out of business or to prevent a new competitor from starting up.

We also regulate Transpower, which operates the national electricity grid, electricity lines companies and gas pipeline businesses as they are natural monopolies. This regulation includes making them publicly disclose information about their performance, and setting the maximum average prices they can charge and minimum quality standards they must meet. However, they are still largely free to decide how much they charge individual customers. For example, a distribution business might have different pricing for industrial customers than for domestic customers, or might charge different prices depending on where a customer is located. Find out who your electricity lines company is.

The Electricity Authority also has principles to encourage electricity distribution businesses to adopt efficient pricing approaches. Learn more on their website.

The Electricity Authority's role

The Electricity Authority is responsible for overseeing and regulating the New Zealand electricity market. They administer industry obligations and voluntary guidelines retailers must follow and investigate any breaches. You can find out more about the Electricity Authority on their website.