CHOICE membership

The future of CHOICE Transformer energy switching service


#1

We’ve made the decision to close our Transformer energy switching service after 30 June, 2019.

Transformer was a brave new energy switching service that made a big impact in a short period of time.

Our aim was ambitious: to level the playing field for consumers in an unfair energy market. We believe Transformer helped start that change. But as a self-funded non profit, we also felt we couldn’t invest the money required to operate the service at scale.

When Transformer launched, the existing energy system made it hard to know if you were on a good deal, or paying too much for electricity. What we came up with was a unique compare-and-switch service that put customers first, not profits.

Over 2,500 people signed up in our first seven months of operation. We’re proud we saved them over $1.8 million on annual electricity bills.

With the support of our customers we made a mark on Australia’s retail energy sector. Our service sparked major regulatory changes, and inspired a range of new energy comparison startups.

FAQ

1. I’m a Transformer subscriber, what happens now?

We’ll continue to check your electricity bills until your subscription ends, or until 30 June 2019 - whichever happens sooner. If we find more savings we’ll switch you to a new retailer. If your subscription extends past that date, we’ll be in touch soon with information about refund options for the rest of the subscription.

2. Can I still subscribe to Transformer?

We’re no longer taking new customers, but there are other services you can try if you need advice on energy savings. If you’re in NSW, try EnergySwitch, a free government bill analysis and comparison service. Other government sites list the best deals, but they don’t compare your bill against other deals on the market. Those sites are EnergyMadeEasy and VictorianEnergyCompare (for Victorians).

3. Why was it hard for you to switch some customers?

Energy retailers have varied, often cumbersome, processes for taking on new customers. Some retailers with the most competitive offers didn’t have efficient online systems. This meant switching customers took us a lot of time, and it was hard to effectively automate the process.

Energy regulations also slowed us down. Retailers often needed to contact our customers by phone or email to get their consent to switch. This slowed us down and was understandably frustrating for our customers.

On the up side: major changes are on the way, prompted by the ACCC’s Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry (where Transformer was used as a case study).


#2

Sorry to see it go. Job well done.

Ironically, I had finally decided that I would sign up. Too late s/he cried!


#4

Sad news, but understandable. This was one of your best initiatives Choice…


#5

I’m Shattered ! This is a huge loss for the Community. I’m disappointed you only got 2,500 people, I thought you would have done much better than that ? Is there some other way you could package this as less competition in the Industry just ain’t what we want to hear. Also you will be sitting on the best data base of Electricity deals, have you thought of just publishing this under your brand and seeking a subscription to use ? There must be a business model that can make this work.


#6

we are exploring some other options @iPhill but we haven’t settled on anything yet. The best offers tend to change quite a bit and vary depending on location, usage and tariff type. There will be some big changes in the industry after July 1 on default tariffs and discounts so we’ll see how things shake out.


#7

Thank you :slight_smile:

We are very proud of what we were able to do. $1.8M in savings to consumers is nothing to sneeze at. I’m especially proud of the New Things and Transformer teams and the many helpers from elsewhere in CHOICE that combined to deliver something unique – an energy advice service that didn’t take money from retailers and so was able to tell the truth fearlessly and deliver the maximum savings.

The energy companies didn’t make it easy though, and our cost of delivery was higher than the amount we felt we could fairly charge consumers. But we definitely do have ideas to take what we’ve learnt and build something with a business model that can work. If this community has thoughts about where to take it next (they could go beyond the Energy market too!) then we’re all ears.

V.


#8

Disappointing to hear the news. I am sure that many people would be happy to do the transfer work from one energy supplier to another if provided with a Choice recommendation. Could this work if a lesser subscription fee was charged?


#9

Thanks for your suggestion. It may also become easier to switch customers between retailers as the consumer data right project progresses.


#10

This decision is disappointing for many reasons. I feel like the cost of signing up was barely less than we saved through the recommendation to change, especially when a government service already exists in our state; we simply paid money to CHOICE rather than an energy provider.

There’s no detail on how we should now proceed to manage our energy retailer accounts that were set up through CHOICE. Our energy accounts are linked to a choicetransformer.com.au email address to which we have no direct access. What are we supposed to do when the CHOICE Transformer membership ends? Will CHOICE assist with resetting the account to use an email address of our choosing?

Our membership began at the beginning of June, but there was a month’s delay from when we paid our membership fee, so I have no idea when the year’s membership actually ends. How much notice will be given of the closure of the account?


#11

Thanks for your comments. Our team worked very hard to get this service to work and there we feel some disappointment too at this announcement. Regarding the choicetransformer.com.au email forwarder addresses the procedure is slightly different for each retailer so we’ll be communicating to individual customers by email by this in the coming months. We are calculating all subscription start dates as the day we initiated your first switch, not the day you paid for the service. Again, more details will follow on this by email to individual customers. Thank you again for your support. Rest assured, we are committed to keeping the service live till 30 June.


#12

Like others, I’m also quite disappointed in this announcement. In my case, we have saved a considerable amount of money after switching with Transformer. I’m with @gilflite in that I’d be happy to do the legwork it would take to switch provider, if only there was a trusted source pointing me in the right direction. I don’t have the time nor the deep industry knowledge required in order to make a confident and informed decision when analysing the current landscape of a myriad offers. Even the 1 July changes you point to don’t obviously suggest how I might make a better decision. I guess what I’m getting at is that I would value (and happily pay for) some type of service that does not leave people like myself totally untethered in the electricity marketplace and at the mercy of impenetrable pricing and dodgy deals.


#13

We’ll certainly take your suggestions on board. We know energy is a big problem for Australian consumers and we are looking at other ways that CHOICE may engage in this space.


#14

Thanks for everything. Transformer was the best $99 I’ve ever spent, I’m a heavy user and it saved me more than $100 every month
I’m not a wood duck either, and my pre-tranformer provider appeared to be offering the best deal 6 months earlier, when I used the Victorian Energy Compare (not-for-profit) website. That provider pulled what appeared to be a very clever stunt by being the cheapest by far when I checked, then hiking up the price by a truly massive percentage within months.
It’s really hard to keep pace with the rent-takers and sociopaths that manipulate this industry, and I’m really sorry to hear that they made it too hard for Choice to beat them in this game.
Good luck with whatever you try next.


#15

thanks for your feedback Roger, yes I think I know the provider you’re talking about - could it have been these guys? https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/shopping-for-services/utilities/articles/sumo-powers-big-rate-increase


#16

I see their ads all over the internet claiming to be the cheapest.

Their reviews on Product Review really sums them up.

What a bunch of charlatans.

image


#17

That’s the one exactly. Mine was quite a bit earlier in the year and only weeks after I was ‘baited’.

Naively, I thought that it was a result of a wholesale price increase, but now I realise that their note hypnotised me into that point of view.

Thanks again for your help.


#18

You’re fortunate to have a choice in providers. I submitted my most recent electricity bill to Transformer in June 2018, the response… “We would love to help you find some electricity savings but we do not service your area of Queensland as it is not a fully deregulated energy market.” :disappointed:


#19

I sorry to hear the news, it was a great initiative. Is it possible to give the software/database used for calculating the best deal to the open source community? Don’t ask me how to do that, but I’ve read that this is something that organisations do with useful software when it is no longer their core business. Hopefully then it could keep going at least as a manual service.


#20

Thanks for the suggestion, the software was developed by a partner organisation and I don’t think open sourcing is currently on their roadmap.


#21

Very sad to see this service discontinued. Was actually hoping that it might be extended to the Gas market which is just as confusing for “joe average”. Great work by the team at CHOICE and looking forward to future initiatives.