New rule gives customers power to dispute electricity bills
NEW laws that give Southern Downs residents power to fight back against estimated energy bills hold hope for people who say they have been overcharged for electricity.
The chance to provide a self-reading of electricity meters puts charge back into hands of Warwick residents like Judi Pike, who was shocked to receive higher-than-normal power bills when she moved house last year.
After contacting Ergon Energy, Ms Pike discovered the bill was an estimate of her quarterly usage but was calculated on the historical consumption of people who used to live at her address.
"Before we moved we were paying around $470 a quarter and now we're paying more than $900," she said.
"There is no need for these excessive electricity bills.
"We should not keep getting estimates when someone is paid to come and read our meter."
An Ergon Energy spokesman said while 95 per cent of meters were read, estimated bills were sometimes issued when contractors could not access meters to take an accurate reading.
"Meter readers will always do their best to read the meter but safety is the number one priority and they cannot risk injury in carrying out their job," the spokesman said.
He said unrestrained dogs and locked gates were the most common reason an estimated reading would be applied.
"Our estimates are calculated using historical consumption data for the same property in the corresponding period in previous years," he said.
Warwick resident Eileen Harlow has also seen the dark side of estimated readings.
With a dog she relies on for security, Ms Harlow said contractors had been deterred from entering her property but argued the solution was flawed.
"This averaging system does not work and it is ridiculous," she said.
"I am a single woman. There is no way my usage is going to be the same as Joe Blow with his big family up the street.
"They should be calculated on your previous consumption at other properties."
Ms Harlow welcomed the new rules which will make it compulsory for retailers to allow customers without smart meters to provide their own meter readings if they take issue with an estimated bill.
A spokesman for the Australian Energy Market Commission said the rule, which comes into effect on February 1, was made to reduce the risk of customers being exposed to the financial shock of inaccurate estimated bills.
"(This) will reduce the risk of customers being exposed to higher bills based on overestimated energy use, or having to repay significant sums due to previous bills based on underestimated energy use," he said.