Anyone who receives electricity or natural gas bills for using power and/or gas at your home or business has a contract with an electricity or gas retailer. Electricity and gas contracts are binding legal agreements allowing you to receive a supply of electricity or gas at your home or business.
Regulated contracts (also called standard contracts or non-market contracts) are basic electricity and gas contracts with terms and conditions that are prescribed by law and have a certain level of protection. In all places except Victoria, electricity prices under regulated contracts are set by the regulator in your state or territory in consultation with electricity retailers. In Victoria prices for standard electricity contracts are determined by retailers themselves and published in the Victorian Government Gazette.
For residents of New South Wales and South Australia the prices under standard natural gas contracts are set by the regulator in your state in consultation with energy retailers. In Queensland, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania the standard gas prices are set by retailers themselves.
Market contracts are contracts that have been agreed between you and your energy retailer and may contain different terms, conditions and prices to regulated contracts including discounts, bonuses, different billing periods, different payment options, fixed contract terms, early exit fees, etc. Prices under market contracts are set by the retailers themselves.
If you switch your energy retailer you will either be switching from a regulated or standard contract to a market contract (if you are currently on a regulated contract) or from a market contract with one retailer to a market contract with another retailer.
You might be able to save money on your power and gas bills by switching to a market contract. Depending upon where you live, there could be many energy retailers from which to choose, each offering different pricing, discounts, bonuses and other incentives to switch. Just like other services, such as telecommunications, competition amongst energy retailers can drive down the costs of purchasing electricity and gas.
The general answer is yes, if you are on or switch to a market contract you can later decide to switch back to a regulated contract with regulated tariffs. However, each state and territory has different approaches and rules for reverting back to regulated (non-market) contracts so please read about the situation in your state below.
Depending upon where in NSW you reside, either Energy Australia, Integral Energy or Country Energy could be your host (regulated) electricity retailer and either AGL, ActewAGL, Country Energy or Origin Energy could be your host (regulated) gas retailer which means that if you are on a market contract with any retailer and wish to return to a regulated contract these companies are obliged to offer to sell electricity or gas respectively to small customers at a standing contract price and subject to standing contract terms and conditions.*
You can read more about your rights on the Independent Pricing and Review Tribunal (IPART) website:
From 1 January 2009, all energy retailers operating in Victoria must offer you their regulated contract (called a standing contract in Victoria) if they have responsibility for the house that you are living in (or move into) and you have not been offered a market contract by another retailer. However, unlike other states, the prices for standing contracts are set by each energy retailer not the government. However, the terms and conditions of the contract are set by the Essential Services Commission of Victoria (ESC). You can learn more about your rights on the ESC website.
Small customers living in South-East Queensland (the Energex electricity network area) who enter into a market contract with any electricity retailer may choose to later return to the regulated prices (called notified prices), which are published each year in the Queensland Government Gazette, with either their current retailer or a new retailer.
Small customers living in rural and regional Queensland (Ergon electricity network area) have the same rights as those living in South-East Queensland. However, as there is currently no choice of electricity retailer other than Ergon Energy in these areas, this point is moot.
AGL is the host (regulated) electricity retailer and Origin Energy is the host (regulated) gas retailer in SA which means that if you are on a market contract with any retailer and wish to return to a regulated contract these companies are obliged to offer to sell electricity or gas respectively to small customers at a standing contract price and subject to standing contract terms and conditions.*
You can read more about your rights on the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) website:
ActewAGL is the host (regulated) electricity and gas retailer in the ACT which means that if you are on a market contract with any retailer and wish to return to a regulated contract you could do so by switching back to ActewAGL.*
You can read more about your rights on the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) website.
If you live in one of these states or territories where there is not currently retail competition in electricity you will automatically be on a regulated contract and are not yet able to switch to another electricity retailer or a market contract.
* However, please note that if you are on a market contract early exit fees could apply if you break your contract early to revert to the regulated prices.