It is the biggest marketing tussle since surging growth in mobile telecoms and internet demand spawned the battle between Telstra and the bunch of wannabe telcos a decade ago.
Now there is a surge in competition to lock in households and businesses on electricity deals.
Names such as Momentum Energy, Pacific Hydro and NZ's Meridian Energy are all seeking to garner a slice of the action, taking on the big buys - Origin Energy, EnergyAustralia and AGL.
Yet are consumers better off? Overseas research indicates households often enter bad electricity contracts and could be better off deciding on their supplier randomly.
''The UK has mandated comparisons, and it is forcing suppliers to advise customers of the best offer appropriate,'' says David Stanford of the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre.
He says consumers are increasingly confused over the offers in the market place, which is evidenced by surging complaints to the Energy and Water Ombudsman in both Victoria and NSW following deregulation, with recent steep price rises adding to the level of confusion.
That concern was underpinned by a recent warning from the pricing regulator, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) over retailers raising prices on locked-in customers, as a record number of households are changing their electricity supplier.
At the end of July ''switching'' supplier reached an annualised rate of one in five of all households in NSW, pushing it towards 60,000 that month alone which is close to the levels routinely seen in Victoria, which boasts one of the most competitive electricity markets in the world.
And their suspicions that some retailers may be acting in an underhanded way were confirmed when the NSW government this week decided to ban termination fees if their electricity retailers change the terms of their contract, such as raising tariffs even though the household thought it had entered into a contract running for a couple of years which would ''lock in'' their tariffs.
''Retailers change the rate after the customer has entered into a contract. [The customers] think they know what they will pay, but rates change, with termination fees making it difficult to move or take control,'' warned senior IPART official, Anna Brakely, at a recent forum.
''Retailers need to focus on this to avoid government intervention.''
Both South Australia and Victoria are likely to follow NSW in banning exit fees.
''Most offers say '10 per cent off the regulated tariff','' says Cameron O'Reilly, who heads up the lobby group Energy Retailers Association of Australia. ''That may now be seven to eight per cent off, with the abolition of exit fees.''
For John Pierce, the chairman of the Australian Energy Markets Commission, which oversees the electricity sector, rising competition - and choice - is a prime policy aim.
''One of the goals of the energy sector is not [to] become like the telco market, where you need the mind of a 20- or a 21-year-old to get your head around the offers.''
Rather, a more limited number of transparent packages to suit household needs which could, for example, be centred around off-peak discounts for heavy energy users.
But there are more fundamental questions to be answered: given the lack of product differentiation, can many households make the best choice?
The British market was opened up in 1999 yet, research there shows, households routinely make the wrong decision and end up with a higher-priced supplier than they should.
''Consumers failed to appropriate many of the gains available to them by selecting a supplier who was not the cheapest available given their consumption level,'' researchers, Chris Wilson and Catherine Waddams Price wrote.
''Worse, some consumers even made negative gains by picking a more expensive supplier.''
As a result, one in five consumers ended up worse off when switching electricity company based on price alone. And, of those households that switched, half didn't fully benefit from changing supplier.''
The difficulty of deciding between competing offers meant the outcome was little different to what would occur if consumers were to select energy offers at random.
''Many consumers still find it difficult to make effective market choices and are confronted with consistently inaccurate or unreliable information upon which to make [a] choice,'' CUAC's David Stanford said at a recent industry forum.
''After several years of price deregulation, over 30 per cent of consumers still find it difficult to find, compare and understand energy offers. Similarly … there is still a level of uncertainty … with a significant number of consumers still thinking that the government is responsible for setting prices.
''Plentiful choice of what appear to most consumers to be essentially homogenous products serves to discourage participation, increase consumer confusion and undermine the effectiveness of consumer choice.''
Research by his organisation, for example, has found some door to door sales teams use a range of misleading lines to push their wares to consumers - from pitches such as 'your area is being changed to a different company', to 'we're from the government'.
Locally, research by the Australian Energy Regulator has found that though door-to-door sales is the main avenue for electricity retailers, households ''may not be getting the best deal available to them'', in part because the sales pitch may not be for the most competitive offer available.
''It would appear that many consumers are not yet benefiting fully from the competitive retail energy market and it is likely that disadvantaged and vulnerable customer groups are disproportionately affected,'' it warned in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry.
''One disadvantage of the prevalence of door-to-door selling of energy offers is that it is likely to result in customers making sub-optimal switching decisions as they are only able to compare their current offer with the offer being presented by the salesperson.''
In Britain, to prevent 'mis-selling', electricity retailers must notify their customers regularly of the best offer available for them, for example.
Like many other industry sectors, from banking, to retailing and aviation, the big three in electricity retailing - Origin Energy, AGL and TruEnergy/EnergyAustralia - dominate the market. In Victoria, they jointly control three quarters of the market, with the remaining split between a dozen or so competitors. They are stronger still in NSW, with a range of smaller groups jostling for a presence.
Unlike other states, the Victorian market is deregulated, with as many as one in three households changing supplier each year.
''In Victoria there is no particular loyalty. There is no market power and anyone [who] moves out of line, loses market share. We hope NSW will look at the Victorian model. Given the impact of dynamic market pricing, the government could tell the customer to change supplier if they are not happy,'' the retailers lobbyist O'Reilly said.
''Switching doesn't necessarily have positive outcomes for consumers,'' Matt Levey at Choice said. ''For example, retailers in Victoria have large margins, to maintain their marketing activities.
''Removing exit fees is not a proxy for the heavy lifting that needs to be done'' in resolving the large rise in power prices.
''Some of these large discounts really only apply to those coming off the regulated tariffs - as long as you avoid some of the add-on fees. But it is only a one-off, and it doesn't apply every time you change retailers.''
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