What you need to know before you choose an electricity or gas retailer, and your rights if you are unhappy with their service.
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:
Check your contract
Every energy retailer has a customer contract that outlines your rights and their responsibilities with electricity or gas services, including billing. You may not be able to negotiate the standard terms of your contract with the company, but it is good to read the contract before you sign up. You have rights if they include unfair contract terms.
Tip: Some contracts allow power companies to automatically renew fixed-term deals, unless you opt out. Once you have renewed automatically this makes it hard to switch providers without incurring early termination fees.
Read our page on Contracts and sales agreements to find out more.
Do you want a smart meter?
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(external link) when collecting and handling that data.
You have a specific guarantee of acceptable quality for the supply of electricity and piped gas, supplied by a retailer under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).
The guarantee means:
- the supply should be as safe and reliable as a reasonable consumer would expect it to be
- the quality of gas or electricity supplied must be such that it can be consistently used for things that 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.
Loss of service
If you find your gas or electricity supply has suddenly stopped, check with your supplier or the network operator. There may be a fault in your area because of a power cut or maintenance work. Your supplier or the network operator will explain the details to you.
If you lose service, you’re covered by the guarantee of acceptable quality for electricity and gas supplied by retailers under the Consumer Guarantees Act. If this guarantee is not met, you may be entitled to a legal remedy for a breach of this guarantee.
Tip: Your electricity and gas bills may be a large part of your monthly budget, but you can make big savings by following a few simple steps.
At home(external link) – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
If you haven’t paid your bill, you usually have about 48 days before your power is disconnected.
You need to contact your retailer before this date to discuss payment options.
Before disconnecting your electricity or gas, retailers must:
- 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
- liaise with Work and Income if you are a beneficiary
- make sure no one living at the property is medically dependent.
What are my rights around disconnections(external link) – Electricity Authority
Vulnerable or medically dependent consumers
The Electricity Authority enforces two Government guidelines to assist medically dependent and vulnerable consumers(external link).
Tell your electricity and gas company immediately if:
- you’re medically dependent and rely on mains 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.
If things go wrong
Contact your electricity or gas retailer first
If you have a problem with your electricity or gas, complain to your electricity or gas retailer or the local distribution company. You can complain about:
- incorrect billing
- any breach of the consumer guarantee for acceptable quality for gas and electricity
- being misled about any electricity or gas services.
Prepare to complain
If you’re unable to resolve your issue directly with the electricity or gas supplier, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.
Resolve it: Electricity and Gas
Smart meter installation
An electricity retailer installed a smart meter at a customer’s home and refused to remove it after the customer complained. The customer, ‘Mr M’, complained to the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner. The Commissioner investigated the complaint and recommended the retailer remove the advanced meter and install an analogue meter. She also recommended the company pay Mr M a customer service payment of $1,000. She found that the electricity retailer installed the meter in breach of its terms and conditions, because it did not give the customer adequate notice before installing the meter. This installation without notice also denied the customer the opportunity to change retailer.
A gas retailer sent bills addressed to ‘the new occupant’. The bills had charges for arrears and daily lines charges. The new tenant said there were no gas appliances at the property and the gas meter at the property had a sticker on it saying it was disconnected. The tenant provided the retailer with her landlord's contact details through the EGCC and the meter was removed.
Ms K complained about her network company disconnecting, without notice, the electricity supply to the rented property she lived in. The network company said it disconnected the supply because the property owner had not paid the bills for network charges. Ms K disputed the network company’s right to disconnect the electricity supply for a debt that was not hers. Ms K and the network company were unable to settle the complaint between them and asked the Commissioner to recommend a settlement. The Commissioner upheld the complaint and recommended the network company pay Ms K $300 compensation for disconnecting the electricity supply without notice, causing Ms K stress and inconvenience.
Mrs H’s property was without power for over 13 hours. When the power supply returned, she noticed her freezer was not working. An electrician said it was likely a surge had damaged the fan, even though Mrs H had a surge protector on the freezer. Mrs H asked her network company to pay the costs of repair.
The network company did not think there was anything to suggest the power outage had caused the damage. It did not agree to pay to have the freezer repaired. During the investigation by the EGCC Commissioner’s office, the network company agreed to pay for the repair to the freezer. Mrs H accepted and the complaint was settled.