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Changing Power Providers? Power Switching Myths Debunked

Author: Jared Mullane

There are many reasons we justify sticking with an electricity provider that isn’t right for us. Canstar debunks six common myths that stop us from changing power providers.

Many Kiwis are feeling the heat of increasing power bills. But simply the thought of changing power providers is enough to provoke a cold sweat from many of us. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
There are many common misconceptions about switching that could be preventing you from getting a much better deal. That’s why Canstar Blue aims to bust these myths and help you on the path to finding some significant savings.

Myth 1: I don’t want the installation hassle

You might think that changing power companies means a complete overhaul is required and that an engineer will need to visit your home to install a new meter. This is definitely not the case.

Your electricity comes straight from the national energy grid, no matter which provider sends you the bills. The only person who (might) visit your property is the meter reader to take a final reading so your old supplier can send you a final bill. But most of us now have a smart meter, in which case readings are automatically sent digitally.

If so, then no one will need to come round to visit whatsoever.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t currently have a smart meter, some energy retailers offer to upgrade your old meter if you switch to them. In which case, someone would need to drop by. But you don’t need to agree to this if you don’t want to.

Myth 2: I don’t want the power to go off

As we mentioned previously, changing power providers doesn’t mean any significant change to your actual power supply. At no point will your electricity be disconnected. Your new retailer will simply take over your account, charge you its own rates, and then send you the bills.

The reality is, you likely won’t notice things switching at all until you get an email telling you it’s all done!

Be aware that any changes in your tariff structure could mean you are charged for your power in a different way than before. So you may have to change your power usage behaviour to make the most of your new plan structure and/or benefits.

Finding the best power provider

To help you find the best value electricity retailer, Canstar Blue rates NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can click on the button below for the full results of our survey.

Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.

See Our Ratings Methodology

Compare electricity providers for free with Canstar Blue!

Myth 3: I’m under contract and can’t switch

The word contract sounds scary, but in the world of power supply, it’s a little misleading.

While all power plans are technically a contract (i.e. they come with various terms & conditions) no one will ever be locked into a contract they cannot simply quit. Many providers have open-term contracts, that you can leave without any penalty, or sometimes, even without notice. So even though you signed a contract when you joined, it might be worth checking if it’s actually fixed-term at all.

But for those of us who are locked in to a long-term deal, you do still have the option to leave. It’s just likely that you’ll have to pay an exit fee to cancel the contract.

This is where you may need to do a little math.

While some early exit fees can be steep (especially if you happily took some ‘free’ appliances or bonuses when you signed up for the deal) not all exit fees are particularly high. Depending on the price you have to pay, if you’re switching to a better deal, the cost of cancelling the contract early may be able to be quickly recovered.

→Related article: Save on Electricity: Five Tips to Slash Power Costs

Myth 4: I rent and need to stick with my landlord’s plan

Renting a home doesn’t mean that you will have to be tied down to the property owner’s choice of electricity provider. If it’s your name on the account and you pay the bills, you have every right to switch. Especially if you think you can get a better deal. The only exceptions to this could be:

  • If your rental agreement states that you cannot switch providers (e.g. because the landlord pays the bills) or;
  • Your home is part of an embedded network where all of the properties (e.g. in the apartment block) are supplied by the same company

It’s clearly important to read your rental agreement carefully and ask lots of questions before signing it. Allowing your landlord to pay the utility bills, or being part of an embedded network, can have its benefits. But make sure you understand what you’re getting into first.

Myth 5: All energy companies are the same

This is a perfectly understandable sentiment, but you may be surprised by just how different power companies can actually be.

In fact, in our latest Most Satisfied Customers | Electricity Providers survey, Kiwi consumers rated New Zealand power companies. The results make for an interesting read, and certainly suggest there’s a point of difference. Whether that’s for Customer Service, Value for Money, Online Tools & Advice, or even the power provider’s Focus on Environmental Sustainability.

When changing power providers, it’s a great place to start.

→Related article: Flick Electric Co: New Zealand’s Favourite Electricity Provider

If you are looking purely at price, there’s a great variance in pricing. For example, low user power plans are being phased out and, as a result, power companies were recently granted the option to increase their daily charges for low power users.

But not every provider has done that. Some providers are still charging a low-user tariff of around 33c per day, others have doubled that cost to 66c per day. And then you have Octopus Energy, which recently entered the market with the promise of no daily rate for low users whatsoever!

Looking at variable rates, the price you’re paying can vary drastically from provider to provider. Throw in things such as Time of Use plans and free power hours, and you could save big!

Early birds and night owls could pay 50% less to wash dishes and do laundry than everyone else. But only if they are on the right plan for their needs.

Myth 6: Switching is just too much hassle

Switching energy providers doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can switch online in as little as five minutes, and your new provider handles everything for you. You won’t even need to do the break-up with your current provider yourself.

However, it’s really important to do your research first. So while changing is quick and easy, you’ll need to put (just a little) time aside to find the right plan for you.

A great place to start is right here with Canstar Blue. Our Most Satisfied Customers | Electricity Providers Award is a great way to see which drivers of satisfaction matter to you, and which providers excel in those areas.

You’ll then need to visit several power provider websites to see their plans and offers, as well as their prices. As power providers price on a customer-by-customer basis, so you’ll need a quote for your specific address.

All in all, changing power providers is relatively hassle-free. It just takes a little time to find which provider you want to switch to.

Compare electricity providers for free with Canstar Blue!

author andrew broadleyAbout the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.

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