A customer in hardship is frustrated that she continually receives high estimated bills due to meter access issues.

High bills
Case Number 2017/28403
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Ms B was unhappy with her gas company because she continued to receive bills based on estimated meter reads due to the meter reader being unable to access the meter. She had previously provided instructions for the meter reader to knock on her door so that she can give them access to the meter, as her gate is locked for security reasons. Ms B advised the meter reader does not knock on her door and she regularly gets estimated bills for $400. She advised she is on a pension and cannot afford to pay these bills which are much higher than they would be if they were based on actual meter reads. She also advised that her ‘pay on time’ discount has not been applied. Ms B was disappointed that she had to spend a lot of time calling the company about this issue to provide ‘self reads’ and she feels she has received poor customer service.

EWOV lodged an Assisted Referral, however this did not resolve Ms B’s concerns so she contacted us again and we commenced an Investigation.

The Investigation

EWOV discussed the case further with the company. It advised that it was required to complete at least one actual meter read per year and suggested a Victorian Power Industry Lock (which meter readers have a master key for) as a solution to the access problem. However, Ms B had already indicated she did not want to install a new lock as she is a tenant and does not own the property.

EWOV confirmed that an actual meter read was obtained on 4 October 2017 which was in line with a self read provided by Ms B. The company issued a new bill based on this read. After the billing adjustment, Ms B’s account balance was $294.89. EWOV confirmed that ‘pay on time’ discounts had been applied to this bill and to previous bills. EWOV noted a Utility Relief Grant Scheme payment had been applied in August 2017. EWOV also noted that the Centrepay instalment payments of $30 per fortnight were less than Ms B’s ongoing consumption costs of $43 per fortnight. The company offered to place the customer on its hardship program. EWOV discussed the case further with Ms B.

The Outcome

The company confirmed it had provided specific meter read instructions to the gas distributor, to ‘knock on door for access through gate’. It issued a bill based on an actual meter read with pay on time discounts applied. The company confirmed Ms B can still call to provide a self read if her meter is not read. The company apologised for the inconvenience caused and applied a $194.89 credit in recognition of the customer service issues. It confirmed that, after the application of this credit, Ms B’s account balance was $100.  The company accepted Ms B’s proposed payment plan of $30 per fortnight for the next twelve months and placed her on its hardship program. This program will provide energy efficiency advice, financial counselling and other support and assistance to Ms B. It also provided a direct contact for its hardship team. Ms B was happy with this outcome and EWOV closed the case.

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