We think electricity bills should be simple to understand. They should give consumers clear information about their power use and what it costs. They should also tell consumers if they’re on the best pricing plan and, if not, how much money they could save by switching.
Consumer NZ has a useful price comparison site – Powerswitch – which has been a big help to many small electricity consumers in New Zealand who wanted to change their electricity retailer and switch up their pricing plan. But it hasn’t been used as much as we'd hoped, so we decided to take a closer look at why that is. What we found is that currently, power bills aren’t providing consumers with the information they need to be able to use tools like Powerswitch.
We investigated how different retailers present their bills, to work out what needs to change. Over the last year, we’ve talked to both consumers and retailers across the country, and researched how other countries’ electricity billing works.
During the course of our research, we learned that consumers don't engage with their power bills if they’re too hard to understand. This discourages consumers from shopping around, so they end up staying with their retailer out of habit. It’s just too hard to change. And if they feel like that, they won’t make the effort to find a power plan that better suits their budget. In other words, they could be missing out on saving money.
In contrast, when power bills are well designed and easy to understand, consumers feel more confident checking out other electricity deals.
What we did next
We decided to develop a model electricity bill that shows how power billing could be simplified for consumers, and give them the information they need to manage their power usage. We’d like to see electricity retailers here in NZ adopt it as a template for their bills.