Competitive Price Companies

What is competitive retail service?

Under competitive retail service, you can choose to purchase your electricity and natural gas energy from a variety of competitive retailers. You and the retailer of your choice may enter into a contract for the type and length of energy service you want. The regulated distribution company for your area will then deliver the energy to you.

Contract charges are not regulated, but competitive retailers are licensed by Service Alberta under the Fair Trading Act. Service Alberta reviews the companies' retail contracts before granting the license to offer competitive electricity and/or natural gas service.

The contract you sign with the competitive retailer sets out the terms and conditions you both must meet. The terms and conditions of the contract can include: the price you pay for your energy, the length of the contract, cancellation penalties, and any other agreed upon services.

It typically takes between 10 to 15 days to switch energy services; however, it can take longer depending on the specific situation. You should check with the retailer and confirm the date when your new service will commence. If you are a new utility customer (new to Alberta or moving into your first home) this means you may have to initially connect your electricity and natural gas services with the regulated retailers before going on a competitive energy contract. Be sure to ask each competitive retailer how long it will take for energy to flow if you were to sign a contract.

Who are the competitive retailers?

The competitive retailers offering services to you will depend on where you live and the type of consumer you are.

  • An energy contract is a legal agreement between you and a licensed energy retailer. It states the price you will pay for energy and the terms and conditions of your energy purchase.
  • A competitive energy retailer is an independent electricity and/or natural gas marketing company whose prices are not regulated by a provincial or municipal government, a Rural Electrification Association (REA) or another agency. These companies are licensed by the Government of Alberta, but are not affiliated with government. Any special rewards or offers made by the marketer to encourage you to sign a contract are not part of any government program.
  • It typically takes between 10 to 15 days to switch energy services; however, it can take longer depending on the specific situation. You should check with the retailer and confirm the date when your new service will commence. This means, if you are a new utility customer (starting service at a new address) you will have to initially connect your electricity and natural gas services with the regulated rate provider who can transfer the service immediately before going on a competitive energy contract.

Why a contract may be better for you

  • Contracts can provide peace of mind by locking in a price. As with fixed rate mortgages, these contracts can provide you with stable energy prices over the length of the contract.
  • Fixed price contracts may protect you against short-term price spikes resulting from natural events such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
  • Retailers may offer customers incentives to sign contracts.
  • Some retailers pass along administration cost savings if consumers sign a contract for both electricity and natural gas.

Why a contract may not be right for you

  • Depending on the terms of your contract, you could remain locked in at the contract price for the term of the contract even if the market rates subsequently drop.
  • Some retail offers include early exit fees if you terminate a contract before the end of the term. You should be aware of when early exit fees may apply.
  • An energy contract is a legal commitment between you and the retailer and stays in force until the expiry of the contract. If you are at a stage in your life where – because of health or other reasons – it may be difficult for you to make long-term commitments, then the option to sign a contract should be weighed carefully (for example, if you move to a new location in the province where utilities are included in the rent, early exit fees may apply).

More information

  • Contact your competitive energy retailer with questions about your energy contract.
  • Contact the Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate at 310-4822 (toll free in Alberta) for more information about your options for buying electricity or natural gas and to find out if an energy retailer is licensed or if you feel you have been treated unfairly. It is against regulations for a competitive energy retailer to use misleading statements or apply pressure tactics in the conduct of their business. Service Alberta will investigate all complaints and enforce actions – including fines and license revocation – against a retailer found to be in breach of the regulations.

Sample Energy Contract Folder:

Sample Plain Language Contract:

Contract Tipsheets: