There are two different categories of retail energy contracts – “standard” or “standing” contracts, and “market” contracts.
Standard energy contracts tend to be a little simpler, and have no exit fees, but usually no discount either. The conditions of this type of contract are set by law. If you have never chosen a retailer or a contract, you are probably on a standard contract. If you build a new house, or move into an address without notifying a retailer, you will have this type of contract by default.
Market energy contracts offer more variety in their conditions. They may offer a discount, or even multiple discounts, which might depend on certain conditions being met – for instance, paying on time, paying by direct debit, or receiving correspondence by email instead of by post. Market contracts may expire after a set time, or their discounts may expire – the phrase “set benefit period applies” indicates that the benefit (the discount) expires after the set period. In this case, the retailer would continue to supply energy to the customer, but without applying the discount. The customer would need to contact the retailer to set up a new discounted contract.
Some market contracts may be offered only to specific customers, for instance members of a particular club.
Market contracts can apply exit fees if the customer decides to leave early.
The prices that apply under various standard and market contracts can and do vary from retailer to retailer and contract to contract. In South Australia, a maximum retail price of electricity and of gas used to be set by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia, but this price regulation was removed from 1 February 2013.