Power companies are going to extraordinary lengths to attract new customers — but it comes with a catch. Picture: AAP
Power companies are going to extraordinary lengths to attract new customers — but it comes with a catch. Picture: AAP

The catch to freebies from power companies

MORE energy retailers are fighting to woo new customers by offering discounts and freebies ranging from free movie tickets to supermarket gift cards.

New released electricity price monitoring by The Queensland Competition Authority has found a jump in retailers resorting to glitzy promotions to lure householders over to their company in the three months to October.

The QCA is monitoring southeast Queensland prices after the deregulation of the energy market in mid-2016. It looks at standing offers, where terms and conditions are set by national rules, and more flexible market offers.

Incentives like free gift cards might sound like a great deal — but consumers are warned to read the fine print.
Incentives like free gift cards might sound like a great deal — but consumers are warned to read the fine print.

It found nine retailers were offering incentives and freebies in the September quarter compared to just four retailers in the previous June quarter.

Incentives include an Amazon Echo smart device, supermarket gift cards, frequent flyer points and Gold Class movie tickets.

But the QCA has repeated its concerns that the expanding use of incentives "also creates a new element of complexity for customers."

Price monitoring shows retailers who miss paying their bill on time face jumping from among the cheapest bills to the dearest.

In one example, Click Energy released a limited offer "Pearl" deal that offered a hefty 27 per cent discount for on-time payment and a one-off $50 discount off the first bill.

But the deal was offered for just two days during the quarter.

Those that snapped it up ended up on the cheapest market deal of any retailer, with a quarterly bill of $295 for the typical householder, the QCA analysis shows.

That was $217 lower than the highest standing offer deal, representing a 42 per cent saving.

However, the deal did not offer the lowest supply or usage charges, according to the report, meaning customers can pay dearly for paying late.

"The offer with the highest headline discount is not necessarily the cheapest offer," QCA chair Flavio Menezes said.

 

Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham. Picture: AAP/Dave Hunt
Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham. Picture: AAP/Dave Hunt

The report shows quarterly standing offer bills ranged from $358 (Powershop) to $512 (QEnergy), while market offer bills ranged from $295 (Click Energy) to $432 (Mojo Power). On average, quarterly bills differed by about $80 a quarter when comparing the dearest market offer to the cheapest.

Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said the savings showed the Government was on track to deliver its promised two-year cap on power price rises to average inflation.

Queensland Consumers Association spokesman Ian Jarratt said shopping around needed to be simplified and late payment discounts should reflect the actual cost burden to retailers caused by late payment.



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