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Sep 26, 2008 9:13am
5 posts

"Power shock as winter bills blow budgets

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  • Mex Cooper
  • September 26, 2008 – 7:37AM

Electricity customers could be in for a seasonal shock
as winter power bills blow out household budgets, a welfare agency has
warned.

The caution comes after an 83% increase in complaints about electricity companies from the end of 2007 to mid- 2008.

Half of a record 10,190 electricity complaints received by Victoria’s Energy and Water Ombudsman were about billing.

A spokesman for the St Vincent de Paul Society,
Gavin Dufty, said many customers who received bills calculated on
estimated use were now being hit with large winter bills based on
actual meter readings.

He said he knew of pensioners whose bills had jumped by up to $500 when their meters were read.

“It can be a real kick in the hip pocket,” he said.

More than 800 people complained to the Ombudsman about estimated bills in 2007/08, nearly double the amount in 2006/07.

One woman complained she had received a quarterly bill for $961.57 after two previous bills of less than $70 and one for $255.

An
investigation by the Ombudsman found the high bill was correct while
the earlier bills had been based on false readings that underestimated
her use.

The Ombudsman’s report released this month found “high `catch-up’” bills were a systemic problem.

Mr
Dufty advised consumers to check their meter readings against
estimations to avoid being caught off-guard further down the track.

“If there are estimations check, check, check and don’t be afraid to ask for extensions,” he said.

Origin spokeswoman Michelle Hindson said the retailer had not experienced an
unexpected increase in complaints about estimated bills but told
customers struggling with a surprise bill to contact the company.

AGL spokesman Andrew Scannell said all estimated bills were clearly marked
as such and if comparatively high would be investigated before being
sent.

Meter readings are the responsibility of electricity
distribution companies including SP AusNet, United Energy Distribution
and Powercor Australia.

The distributors pass on the information to retailers such as AGL Sales, Origin Energy and TruEnergy.

Retailers
are able to send out three quarterly bills based on estimations of a
customer’s use if a meter can not be accessed but at least one bill a
year must be from an actual reading.

Mr Dufty said about 10
years ago a customer had received a power bill worth tens of thousands
of dollars because a meter had not been read for 25 years.

He
said the bill was “laughed at” and waived and said consumers were only
obliged to pay up to nine months’ worth of electricity if a retailer
had failed to bill them.

The Ombudsman’s report found the
drastic rise in complaints was in part due to retailer AGL introducing
a new billing system and AGL and Origin gaining interstate customers,
which led to delays in call-centre enquiries.

Mr Scannell said AGL had apologised for the inconvenience to customers and believed the problems had since been fixed."

 

Source – http://www.theage.com.au/national/power-shock-a…

 
Samotage_300_medium
Sep 29, 2008 10:26am
555 posts

This was an interesting article, seems that it’s all about the lack of actual reads in calculating the power bills… However the 17 percent hike in prices this year has probably seen some interesting “pro-rating” going on.

I wonder what impact that a potential carbon tax will have on all this?

 

 

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