What products does Utilities.com.au compare?
The Utilities.com.au vision is to collect and compare as many products as possible to help people search, compare, and save on essential services. Regardless of the company's diligence not all product information is publically available. Utilities.com.au is limited to comparing against market information that can be validated and enabling products only from approved energy retailers. The nature of this information makes it impossible to know every deal that is available in the marketplace or to be able to offer you that product every time. Our policy is to recommend the best product we have available based on your selected criteria – not what will most benefit energy retailers or our company.
How can the Utilities.com.au service be free of charge to consumers?
This service is free of charge to you and never marks up the cost of products in any way. We do receive a commission for each utility change that we enable. Energy is a regulated market. We are required by law to tell you accurate information. In short, we try our best to offer you the most useful information possible and strive to put the consumer first in every recommendation.
What is a Standing (Standard) Offer?
Previously in more regulated times a standing offer was the "default" offer that different energy retailers gave to consumers if they didn't ask for a better deal. These offers had special restrictions including rules that dictated how much the retailers could charge as a maximum rate; the consumers couldn't be locked into agreements; and it had a set schedule of government reviewed fees and charges. The most important of these restrictions was a capped maximum price that they could charge. Currently in some markets like Victoria and South Australia standing offers are anything but standard. The common practice is for energy retailers to set their own "Standing Offer" with very high costs. There is very little regulation on how expensive they can make these products appear.
Why should this mean anything to the consumer? The standing offer is usually the offer that each retailer compares their other products against, "15% off!", but as the same company is setting the standing offer price the percentage doesn't really mean anything. Example: A retailer can increase their standing offer by 30% and then offer you a 20% discount. This is why it is very important to compare products from various retailers in context and in relation to each other. The very essence of why Utilities.com.au benefits consumers.
How does Utilities.com.au choose the product which others are compared against?
When the consumer puts in their product criteria the user is prompted to select their current energy plan. The website provides the means to select from a list of retailers which operate in the postcode selected, and then a list of current products from those retailers including standing offers. However, the names of products frequently change, consumers rarely know the name of their product, or their current product may no longer be available in that postcode. If a consumer isn't sure of their current energy company or the product the system selects one of several product choices to compare other products against. In order of priority:
Regulated Offers: In markets where there is a regulated price, the system compares against the product closest to the regulated price.
Standing Offers: If the postcode is in a market which has no regulated maximum cost the system picks the "median" standing offer. The median standing offer is literally the one in the middle of the standing offers available. The most common plans to compare against are the standing offers and picking the middle one is more realistic than picking the most expensive standing offer.
Natural Fit: Sometimes when there is a wide variety of offers to compare against there are natural groupings in the data which makes it a better pick by a human than a computer. In these cases sometime the offers to compare against are manually set.
Best Guess: Lastly if there are no regulated or standing offers in a postcode for a particular product the system does pick the most expensive product to compare against. This rarely happens but when it does the most expensive product is typically similar to a standing offer.
Remember the most important thing in comparing products is not the estimated savings. It is the relative position of the best priced products in response to the consumer's criteria. This answers the question "What is the best product for me?" - it is not just a hollow promise of savings. Equally important is also how fast and easy it is to change to a new retailer.
What is an energy Retailer?
Energy retailers are at the end of the supply chain. It's worthwhile understanding the basic way energy is created and then managed:
Generator - creates power or refines it from renewable or non-renuable energy sources like petroleum products, wind, solar or gas.
Transmission - transports energy products through transmission power lines, gas pipelines, or other transport to a servicable area.
Distributor - distributors are the ones who physically service the homes and businesses. The provide the power and people to make it happen. The distributor always remains the same. The distributors are assigned to each area by government contract.
Retailer - retailers set the price of your energy, bill you, and provide customer service. They also communicate to the distributor who physically services your property and provides the actually electricity and gas.
Why are Distributors and Retailers not the same?
They use to be! In order to introduce competition in the marketplace and ensure consumers had the best price possible the energy regulator forces a seperation between the distributor and retailers. Energy retailers buy energy with something that resembles the stock market or a wheat board - buying erergy allotments at different prices. They then on-sell that energy to you at whatever price they believe they can justify. They are in business to make a profit. That's were Utilities.com.au comes in - we compare their prices and try to find you the best deal.