There’s a special kind of fury reserved for Australian energy retailers.

It’s the kind of anger caused by being told one thing at the beginning of a painstaking 30 minute phone call, only to find 25 minutes in, that thing you were told has been completely contradicted by some hidden fee. Repeat this a few times and voila, you’ve achieved precisely nothing and yet you feel spent.

You started out the afternoon being quite polite and upbeat to the saleswoman down the line, but by 5.30pm you’ve changed. Listening to the saleswoman LITERALLY READ the terms and conditions to you has you half laughing-half crying in frustration. She is reading at lightning speed pausing only to ask you to reply “yes” that you understand and agree to what she just said.

After the most impressive read-a-thon ever the saleswoman pauses to cough and guzzle water. She tells you she’s terribly sorry, but she’s been doing this all day. That’s totally fine you reply, in awe of how anybody could remain that professional despite such obvious pointless reading.

You hand over your bank details and agree on the day they will connect your service.

Inexplicably you get passed on to someone else who goes through everything you’ve just discussed with the first person. They also speak very quickly and you’re sitting there in your lounge room, mouth open, nosed screwed up, trying to make sure you follow.

She explains payment for your electricity bill will be taken automatically from your account on the 27th of every month. But wait you say, the first lady told me I could make the payments, not that it would be automatic. No, she says, that was incorrect. Ok, what about gas, you say, is it included in these monthly payments? What gas she says. “We don’t provide gas in your area”. What? But that’s what you wanted all along, you tell her. Your voice changes. You are no longer cordial.

You’re the little guy trying to make your way through an unforgiving, money-sapping energy industry that you wish you didn’t have to be part of because you want to live off renewable energy but you can’t do that because you’re renting a tiny patch of imaginary land on level one of an apartment block because you can’t buy land because its unaffordable.

Your brain is fried. You are a silly little consumer. You don’t know how not to be duped. You don’t know anything. So you call iSelect, hoping beyond hope that some nice, neutral energy expert will give it to you straight.

He does. He says the provider you just called was no good. He suggests one of the big four. Oooh you wanted to avoid them, you say. No, he says, the market is totally different in New South Wales and the big four’s rates are way more competitive. Alright you say, you’ve convinced me. And you hand over your trust to this newfound Energy Knowledge God like a baby trusts its mother.

But some brain cells lurch into gear and you are suddenly overcome with suspicion. Why is iSelect man so helpful? What is in it for him? So you ask, are you getting paid by this big company to recommend them to me? No, he says, we are totally independent. Do you get paid by them when you sign me up? Yes, he says, but it’s the same amount for all the companies. OK, fine.

After you have signed up to the big company through iSelect man, he then reminds you to cancel your account with the previous company.

Holding in a scream of exasperation, you dial the 13**** number and tell a stranger at the other end that you are breaking up with them.

It’s been 1.5 hours but it feels like a lifetime.

Rant over.

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  1. Well it helps if you behave ethically and avoid those companies who wanted to undermine the Renewable Energy Target – I looked at Greenpeace’s recommendations myself AND ended up saving money!

  2. Interesting that all the economic studies of the ‘benefits’ of energy market reform make no allowance for the cost of time spent by consumers trying to make sensible choices, let alone the emotional exhaustion they often feel. And the time wasted and family disruption of unwanted phone calls at dinner time. At least they’ve stopped the door to door sales (at least in Vic). Then there’s the cost for the large numbers of confused and disempowered people staying on the rip-off standard rates because they are disengaged, confused, or simply too frightened to change.

    Energy market reform could make a very good comedy series along the lines of the show about the Olympics bid or the Hollow Men.