EZswitch: For Transparency in Retail Energy Business

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Phil Oakman, Daniel Zhu, EZswitch

Transparency, advanced consumer experience and loyalty – these form the core of the success of any organization. But unfortunately, in Australia, and globally, there is a lack of transparency, primarily in the retail energy, lending and insurance markets. To increase the profit margin, many of the companies design products in a way where the price increases after an initial benefit period, or what is generally known as the ‘honeymoon’ period. Moreover, it becomes difficult for the consumer to find information about products, understand bills, compare other existing offers due to lack of transparency. The pricing of the products become complex and confusing. Generally, consumers get fooled by discounts calculated on inflated rates. Loyal customers often pay significantly more than new customers but don’t switch because they are too busy or confused by energy plans or bills.

There exist many old school comparison services which don’t actually compare the cost of the customer’s existing product with the costs of the product they are switching to. This can sometimes lead them to pay higher prices even after the switch. These comparison service providers often enter into contracts benefiting the product providers to the detriment of the consumers, leaving them at the mercy of the product provider who will often increase the price of the plan after an initial honeymoon period.

After detailed research, EZswitch team realized that this leads to harassment for the customers and involves a lot of calls by telesales operators from these old school comparison service providers. To cater to this problem, EZswitch used state-of-the-art technology and a new business model to empower consumers with tools and information to navigate existing complex consumer markets.

EZswitch created a platform which is fully online and automated and excludes all kind of harassment to customers over the phone. The platform can automatically extract the required information to perform a comparison of their existing product with alternative products even from a photo of a paper bill, an electronic PDF eBill or just an emailed bill. The company takes the effort of identifying the best of all existing products in the market, that too in just 15 seconds to ensure the customer enjoys long-term competitive prices.

EZswitch ensures that its consumers receive the best post-purchase experience. EZswitch continues to check that the customer’s product is still competitive every 12 months, and makes sure that the provider does not raise its prices significantly within a short period of time. The company offers an energy management service for residents and small to medium businesses that can help them save on energy costs over the long term by ensuring they are always on a competitive deal. It is important for the energy consumers to regularly review their energy as energy plans and offers are constantly changing.

Unlike most ‘old school’ comparison organizations who manually process most of their customers and use a large number of telesales operators, EZswitch provides a fully automated end to end technology solution with minimum operational costs. The company uses the latest energy comparison and management technology to cater to their clients.

Moreover, EZswitch has developed an image enhancement and document parsing solution, incorporated with advanced AI and custom algorithms that can extract data items from very complex documents in PDF format and images of paper documents. The solution is being used by some of their customers in Australia and the UK to extract information from water bills and other utility bills. In Australia, EZswitch has saved one household in Armidale, NSW with $1,037 per year in energy costs. It has also catered to a small restaurant business in Wollongong, NSW, and helped them save with just under $10,000 per year in energy costs. EZswitch has also been able to create significant new income streams for community organizations, businesses and clubs that white-label the EZswitch service, as well as provide very useful money saving service to their members.

Over time, EZswitch has improved the transparency of market information and has successfully removed the barriers to switching. The company collaborates with other partners to commercialize and market its products. EZswitch has also received generous assistance from the Microsoft BizSpark program for startups as well as assistance from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Moreover, the EZswitch team is highly experienced in the development and operation of financial products. Genuine effort combined with such assistance has enabled EZswitch to develop such state of the art technology architecture platform that can be applied to many finance and business solutions.

On the roadmap are upcoming solutions that will reliably and quickly extract information from graphical images in addition to text and tables in complex documents. This will enable EZswitch to learn more about the customer’s energy usage pattern over a longer period of time and modify their products accordingly. EZswitch is embarking on a global program to build partnerships and alliances with organizations in the UK, EU and US to identify markets with similar problems and provide customized products for consumers in those regions.

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