Customers switch on to power deals

Thousands of South Canterbury customers are switching power companies every year in the scramble to combat rising prices.

The Government introduced the "What's My Number" campaign and website in 2011.

The Electricity Authority could not give the number of South Canterbury people who switched using the website. However, its records show there were 4264 completed switches in the region last year, and 3296 in 2012. There are about 31,600 customers in the region.

Electricity Authority chief executive Carl Hansen said the average South Canterbury customer would have saved about $180 per year by switching companies for a better deal.

According to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the annual average bill has grown by about $260, or 15 per cent, since 2010.

However, Hansen said this did not negate the benefits of changing for a better deal. "Assuming they have switched to a lower cost provider and that remains the case, they have saved money over what they otherwise might have paid if they had not switched."

As of last month, Contact Energy has the biggest share of the South Canterbury market (about 17,400 customers), with its nearest competitors Trustpower (4460) and Meridian (3251).

Meanwhile, Genesis Energy (2814) has doubled its customer base in South Canterbury since it acquired the Tekapo power stations in 2011.

The Government launched "What's My Number?" in an effort to encourage more consumer competition. A recent report, compiled by MBIE, suggested only 79,000 customers nationwide had used the site to change their power companies, with total savings of roughly $16.4 million. The cost of the campaign was about $15m.

However, Hansen said this ignored the greater benefits of the campaign. "The greater numbers of consumers who exercise their ability to find the best deal, the more suppliers have to improve their service to retain or win custom."

The Timaru Herald