Choose an electricity or gas retailer and know what to do if things go wrong.
Before you choose a provider
Energy retailers provide you with electricity or gas to your home. These services have to meet a specific guarantee of acceptable quality under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
Check whether switching providers will save you money
If you think you are paying too much for your electricity or gas services, consider switching to a new provider. Switching is easy and, more importantly, it’s free.
To compare prices for electricity and gas supplied in your area and to find out more about switching, go to:
- Consumer New Zealand’s consumer.powerswitch(external link)
- Electricity Authority’s service: What’s my number(external link)
Check your contract
Every energy retailer has a customer contract. This outlines your rights and responsibilities with electricity or gas services, including billing. You may not be able to negotiate the standard terms of your contract. But it is still good to read the contract before you sign up. You have rights if they include unfair contract terms.
Ask your provider:
- how long the contract is for
- if there is a fee for breaking the contract
- the best pricing plan for your lifestyle
- payment options.
Some contracts automatically renew fixed-term deals, unless you opt out. This makes it hard to switch providers without early termination fees.
A smart meter is an electronic meter that accurately and continuously records your electricity consumption data. It sends the information back to your retailer in real time, so you don’t need to have your meter read. Smart meters are all being installed free of charge across New Zealand.
As the information smart meters collect is personal data, retailers need to comply with the information privacy principles in the Privacy Act when collecting and handling that data.
The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) provides a specific guarantee of acceptable quality for the supply of electricity and piped gas, supplied by a retailer.
The guarantee means the supply should be as safe and reliable as a reasonable consumer would expect it to be — within the limits of the retailer's or lines company's control.
For example, it may be reasonable for a customer to expect their electricity to be supplied at a safe voltage and to not cut in and out. But if power is interrupted due to something outside the retailer or lines company's control, eg an earthquake, extreme weather, the guarantee may not apply.
The supply must also be of an acceptable quality. You must be able to consistently use it for the things a reasonable consumer would expect to use gas or electricity for. If this guarantee of acceptable quality is breached, you can get your energy retailer to fix the problem.
If you find your gas or electricity supply has suddenly stopped, and you know you're up to date with your bills, check with your provider. There may be a fault in your area or maintenance work. Your provider will explain the details to you.
The Consumer Guarantees Act provides a guarantee of acceptable quality for electricity and gas. If this guarantee is not met, depending on why this is, you may be entitled to a remedy.
If you haven’t paid your bill, you will receive multiple notices from your provider before your power or gas is cut off.
You need to contact your retailer to discuss payment options.
Before disconnecting your electricity or gas, retailers must:
- give you 7 days notice in writing before the actual disconnection date
- make sure disconnection notices include their complaints process, contact details, and any applicable fees
- give you a range of ways and times to get in touch with them, such as calls, texts, faxes, and home visits
- discuss payment alternatives.
What are my rights around disconnections(external link) — Electricity Authority
For help around budgeting and how to manage your bills, you can talk for free to a financial mentor at Money Talks.
Contact us(external link) — Money Talks
The Electricity Authority is responsible for two Government guidelines to assist medically dependent and vulnerable consumers.
Medically dependent and vulnerable consumers(external link) — Electricity Authority
Tell your electricity and gas company immediately if:
- you are, or become, medically dependent and rely on electricity for critical medical support
- due to your age, health or disability, having your electricity or gas disconnected would endanger your health or well-being (vulnerable consumers)
- you can’t pay your bills because of financial hardship.
Your provider is allowed to ask you to prove whether you are still medically vulnerable a maximum of once a year.
Example — Incorrect billing
Simon gets a much larger bill than usual for his electricity. He calls his provider and is told he wasn’t charged for standard line charges for six months. He is told he will have to pay his bigger bill by the due date, or risk having his debt sent to an agency. Simon can't make a payment this large in time. He emails his provider a complaint, telling them he has a right to expect his billing to be accurate. He suggests because the error was not his, he pays the larger bill in instalments. The provider agrees to split it over a few bills to make payments more achievable.
If things go wrong
If you're having problems with your electricity or gas services, eg you think you've been overcharged, have an an issue with electricity or gas cutting out, or you're not being charged what you expected:
- Contact your electricity or gas provider as soon as possible. Your provider must hear your complaint and respond to it.
- Contact Utilities Disputes whosecore role is to provide a disputes resolution service. They investigate complaints and respond to enquiries. They will talk you though your options and help with moving through an issue.
Example — Disconnection
Brenda moves house. A month before her shift, she calls her power company to let them know she is moving. After a few weeks in the new house, the power shuts off. She assumes it's a regular power outage, but when she gets home from work that evening, she still has no power and her food has spoiled in her fridge. She calls her power company and they are confused, as they haven't disconnected her. She discovers a different power company has disconnected the property as they believed they were supplying power to the property and it was still vacant. She calls this new power company and explains her situation and the inconvenience this has caused in terms of reconnecting the power and the spoiled food. She sends them the emails she sent to her current power company about the house move and her billing information to prove she gave enough notice for switch. The company apologises and offers her $200 as compensation.
All electricity and gas providers must be members of Utilities Disputes. They handle problems and issues you might be having with your electricity or gas provider (and water in parts of New Zealand).
While they are a disputes resolution service, you can ask them a question or talk to them about advice and support without making a complaint. They will talk you through your options and help with how to move through an issue.
What it costs:
Taking your query or complaint to Utilities Disputes is free.
How much you can claim:
Utilities Disputes deals with claims up to $50,000.
For claims more than this, take your claim to the District Court.
Utilities Disputes can help if your complaint is about:
- gas supply
- gas bottles over 15kg.
Utilities Disputes can’t make decisions about the price of electricity or gas, but they can investigate whether bills are accurate, and whether people are on the most appropriate plan.
They also look at customer service, and consider whether the communication and information provided was reasonable, eg was enough notice given?
Utilities Disputes works with you and your provider to reach a resolution. This usually involves a phone meeting with you both. In general, they will:
- Talk with you and the provider about what has happened.
- Investigate the issue.
- If the complaint isn't resolved, they can make a recommendation. This is binding on the provider, but you don't have to accept it.
Refer a dispute(external link) — Utilities Disputes
If you are unhappy with the decision, take your complaint to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.
About the tribunal(external link) — Disputes Tribunal
Example — Missing bills
Agatha calls her power company 10 times over five months about not receiving a bill. Her bills are being sent to the wrong address, and because the address was incorrectly recorded on the registry, her meter couldn’t be read remotely. Agatha is eventually sent a back bill of $1,697.72. She can't pay this kind of bill in one go and doesn't think this is fair as she had been trying to get in touch with them about the missing bills. She complains to Utilities Disputes and they make a recommendation her bill be reduced bill by 40 per cent.