Energy contracts

The National Energy Retail Law commenced in the ACT and Tasmania on 1 July 2012, and South Australia on 1 February 2013. New South Wales and announced that the laws will commence from 1 July 2013. The new laws set out your rights and responsibilities as a gas and electricity customer.

When you purchase gas and electricity from an energy retailer, you are entering a contract. Even if you move into a new property and start using electricity and gas without contacting any retailer, you will automatically have a 'deemed arrangement' with the retailer currently responsible for the energy supply at that property. If you are in this situation, you are required to contact a retailer and enter into a new contract as soon as possible. You will be responsible for paying for any energy used at your property.

Types of energy contracts

Retailers may offer you two types of contracts:

Standard retail contracts

  • include set terms and conditions and can’t be changed by the retailer.

    You are most likely to be on this type of contract if you have never changed retailers or if you haven’t contacted a retailer about an energy contract. Under some standard retail contracts, the price you pay for your energy is set by the state or territory government.

Market retail contracts

  • have a minimum set of terms and conditions, but other terms and conditions can vary from contract to contract.

You might not be eligible for all market retail contracts offered by energy retailers but you can shop around to see what offers are available to you. Market contracts may cost less, offer renewable energy or discounts, and often have fixed term durations where exit fees are charged if you leave early. Market contracts differ between retailers and it is advisable when choosing a market contract to shop around for the one that best suits your needs.

Questions to ask before choosing a market contract

To help you decide if a market contract works best for you ask the salesperson these questions:

Cost of the contract

  • What is the total price? Can it increase or is it a set price? 
  • What is included or excluded from the price? 
  • Are there any late payment fees or other account charges? 
  • How long will the contract last and are there any fees for ending the contract early?
  • Do I need to pay a security deposit and how much is it?

Billing and payments

  • How and when will I receive my bill? 
  • If signing a dual fuel contract for electricity and gas, will I receive one bill or two? 
  • What methods of payment are accepted (direct debit, Centrepay, electronic transfer and post office)?
  • Are there any charges for these different payment methods?

You can find more information in the following factsheets.

Shopping around and switching contracts (2 formats available)

Prepayment electricity meters

Prepayment meters are available to some residential customers in Tasmania and South Australia. Prepayment electricity meters operate just like a prepaid mobile phone service. They allow customers to buy credit to put towards their electricity account. These credits are typically sold from outlets, in a range of amounts, and are stored on a smart card. The credit is then transferred from the smart card to the prepayment meter at your house. As you use electricity, the meter records how much credit you have left. The prepayment meter also stores a small amount of ‘emergency credit’, which helps to make sure you can ‘top-up’ before your credit runs out.