Updated December 2020
In some cases, estimated bills have exposed customers to unusually high bills.
In other cases, receiving bills based on inaccurate estimated reads over an extended period has made it difficult for some customers to manage their usage and control the amount they are billed.
According to the relevant industry codes, retailers in Victoria have a general obligation to base each bill on actual metering data. A retailer must use its best endeavours to ensure that actual readings of the meter are carried out as frequently as required to prepare the customer’s bills, and at least once every 12 months. However, if the meter was faulty, or not safe or easy to access, the retailer is allowed to issue a bill based on an estimation.
To make an estimate, a retailer may look at a bill from the same period last year to see how much energy or water a customer used. If a customer has been with the retailer for less than 12 months, it may make an estimate by looking at the usage of a similar customer in your area.
Customers have an obligation to provide access to the meter. If there is a locked gate, a dog, or if meter access is unsafe or hindered, the meter reader does not have to read the meter. If a customer continues to deny access to the meter, even after requests to allow access, the retailer is entitled to disconnect the customer’s service. However, in our experience retailers rarely take that type of action, preferring to send estimated bills instead.
Smart meters have been rolled out to most electricity customers in Victoria. Smart meters are capable of being read remotely, which means meter readers are no longer required to attend properties for every reading. Smart meters record a property’s electricity usage every 30 minutes. The reading is sent remotely to the electricity distributor, which sends usage information to the electricity retailer. Sometimes there are errors with parts of interval data from the smart meters, which results in ‘substituted’ meter reads. These substituted reads are similar to ‘estimated’ meter reads.
If your retailer used an estimated or a substituted read, this should be clearly shown on your bill. Your bill might have the words ‘estimated reading’ or ‘E’ printed on the front page.
If you have received multiple estimated bills, please contact your retailer so that it can organise for your meter to be read. Your meter should be read regularly, at least once every 12 months. This will ensure that you only pay for what you use and also help you manage your energy and water consumption.
Some retailers in Victoria allow customers to submit their own meter reading. This is considered an estimated read. Ask your retailer if it has a process to generate estimated bills based on your own readings.
Sometimes the amount of energy you use is more than what the retailer estimated. This means your bill or bills have been less than they should. If your bills have been less than they should have been, your next bill will be larger to include the amount that you owe the retailer. If you don’t agree with your bill, or have any other concerns about paying an estimated bill, speak to your retailer.
You can call us or start an online complaint if you have a problem with estimated bills that you can’t solve after speaking with your retailer. Remember to have all your details ready, including your bills and your own notes. To learn more, read our fact sheet on estimated bills and meter access.