Saturday, October 23, 2010

Integral Energy - where's the integrity?

aka: some pointers about choosing an electricity supplier

a couple of representatives from Integral Energy visited my home, giving the impression that:
  • they were visiting homes in the area in response to complaints by residents about recent increases in their electricity bills
  • they are from a company owned by the NSW government, and will move homes back to the standard regulated electricity rate (and offer a 7% discount in addition)
  • they are in my particular townhouse complex at the request of the resident manager (and quoted the manager's name)
the more i heard, the more suspicious i became at just how... convenient the whole scenario was. who appointed Integral Energy to respond to consumer complaints about rising electricity bills? why would a NSW government-related company care about what happens in another state? in the end i realised they were just door-to-door salespeople looking to sign up new customers, leveraging the recent electricity price rise to be the good guys who offer non-inflated electricity pricing. but wait, there's more! there's a further 7% discount off the regulated price! but if you don't sign today, they aren't allowed to leave behind written details of what they're offering for people to consider before signing up later. i said that's super dodgy, a well worn sales tactic, and essentially means there's no point in continuing our conversation.

what irks me about this encounter was the way in which they presented themselves/the reason for their visit (totally misleading), and in particular some other quite misleading statements they made:
  • Integral Energy is a government owned entity, and as such cannot charge above the regulated rates. other privately owned electricity retailers can charge whatever they like. (giving the impression that you can only get the regulated rate with Integral / if you go with anyone else, you'll be paying more)

    FACT: The regulated, or notified price, "is available to all small electricity customers in Queensland no matter who their retailer is, or where they live." ( My understanding is that all retailers must make available to you a plan/option for the regulated price (a standard retail contract - see also They might not advertise or promote that fact, because they want you to take up one of their retail offers / market contracts, which may be at a price above the regulated price, with the additional cost typically offset by one or more bonuses or rewards.
  • my existing retailer's discount is calculated as a percentage off their inflated rates. Integral Energy is offering 7% off the regulated rate so it is the cheapest rate available.

    FACT: The current regulated rate is 19.41c/kWh (not including GST). Integral is offering 18.05c/kWh as their 7% off discounted rate, which is 19.85c including GST. the 8% discounted rate i'm currently getting is 19.65c including GST - this is about 1% cheaper than Integral's rate.
if you have no idea about electricity retailer competition in queensland, or are wanting more information about choosing a retailer / comparing retailers, the following resources would be a good place to start:
  • a Queensland Government website about the power to choose the power you use
  • a Comparator developed by the Queensland Competition Authority to help customers compare the prices of electricity and gas contracts generally available from licensed energy retailers in Queensland.
  • GoSwitch - a comparison service for gas and electricity
  • SwithSelect - another comparison website for (among other things) utilities

and if you really want to know, here's a copy of the Integral Energy Price Fact Sheet for
"Negotiated Retail Contracts – Residential Customers

i must admit their offer is actually pretty good from a pricing point of view, but their sales tactics are pretty underhanded. and there's a reason i didn't choose them when i was searching for a new retailer - i already found a better deal!

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