Powershop and Pulse big winners of electricity customer switch

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2012

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Two specialist electricity retailers were the biggest beneficiaries of a campaign to encourage price comparison, picking up more than half of the customer gains across New Zealand last year.

Figures from the Electricity Authority show Powershop, an online retail unit of state-owned Meridian, gained 19,226 customers in 2011, increasing its customer base by 80 per cent.

Pulse Utilities, the retail-only company majority-owned by Buller Electricity, added just over 11,000 customers last year, expanding its customer base by 58 per cent over the previous year.

Customer switching surged in 2011, as the regulator and ConsumerNZ launched the government-funded Whatsmynumber? campaign, which provided customers with an easy way to compare different tariffs.

Ari Sargent, Powershop's chief executive, said growth was being driven both by the campaign and an underlying demand for change in the industry.

"We've been around for three years now and in that time we've proven Kiwis want more control over their power use. Word of mouth has definitely been our biggest driver of growth, and the fact that it is easy to switch to us."

Powershop and Pulse were far ahead of their rivals, with Meridian receiving the third biggest gain, attracting a net 7598 customers.

New Zealand's second and third largest retailers lost the most customers: Mercury Energy, the retail face of state-owned Mighty River Power, dropped 23,256 customers during last year, and Contact Energy dropped 18,750.

Wellington-based Contact, which lost the title of New Zealand's largest retailer by customers during last year, gained customers in the last few months, after launching an online-only discount.

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