Give first-time electricity buyers grace period to withdraw from contract

Electricity is a basic need. Many are new to the OEM and need time to learn the finer points of making prudent choices.
Electricity is a basic need. Many are new to the OEM and need time to learn the finer points of making prudent choices. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Energy Market Authority has been helpful in making comprehensive information on the Open Electricity Market (OEM) available on its website, including the list of retailers and their price plans. However, I have found that processing the available information is not as easy as it seems.

First, deciding which type of pricing plan - fixed price or discount on the regulated tariff - offers the best savings is difficult to determine.

Second, one needs to be familiar with his own usage trends to choose the best fit. For example, a plan that offers a 30 per cent discount on off-peak electricity consumption is ideal for someone who uses the air conditioner at night.

Third, the plans offered by retailers, some of which are new, vary substantially, especially in terms of the perks offered. This makes it difficult to compare them.

Fourth, details pertinent to customers are not always in retailers' factsheets, instead showing up in their fine print or announcements.

Electricity is a basic need. Many are new to the OEM and need time to learn the finer points of making prudent choices. This makes the six-to 24-month contracts offered by retailers prohibitive.

I suggest giving first-time electricity buyers a grace period of three months to evaluate their bills before deciding whether to continue with their contract or withdraw without incurring early termination charges. This will be similar to the free-look period in insurance plans.

After getting the first three bills, the average Singaporean will have a better grasp of how his choice impacts his electricity bill. This would then let him decide better what retailer or plan to choose.

Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2019, with the headline 'Give first-time electricity buyers grace period to withdraw from contract'. Print Edition | Subscribe