An incorrect multiplier leads to a $7,000 catch-up bill (December 2016)

Trouble paying a bill, Billing mistakes, Delayed and catch-up bills, Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Case Number 2016/16483
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mrs R called EWOV on behalf of a caravan park that had received a large catch-up bill after estimated bills were issued. Covering three months, the catch-up bill was for over $7,000 – but historically quarterly bills totalled only $300. She advised that the meter is in an accessible area, so she was also dissatisfied that estimated billing had been sent. She had contacted the electricity distributor and was told that the bill should be no more than $2,000 per quarter.

She felt pressure from her electricity retailer to pay the arrears in full, so she made a lump sum payment towards the debt but wanted the matter investigated.

When Mrs R contacted EWOV an Unassisted Referral was lodged because she had not contacted the retailer. When Mrs R recontacted EWOV two weeks later, we escalated the complaint to an Assisted Referral – because she was not happy with the information the retailer had provided. Following this, when she did not receive contact from the retailer as part of the Assisted Referral process, she recontacted EWOV and an Investigation was lodged.

The Investigation

A multiplier is a calculation factor applied to meter reads so that for some high energy users, distributors are able to correctly calculate and bill how much electricity is used at the property. When EWOV contacted the retailer it confirmed that the incorrect multiplier had been used, meaning previous estimated billing was incorrect. However, it agreed to not cancel the backbill issued and to not recover the undercharging.  Following EWOV’s review of the retailer’s response, EWOV completed its own investigation by checking the billing issued, contact notes, account reconciliations, the contract, and considered relevant laws and codes. EWOV also liaised with the electricity distributor to clarify if the correct multiplier was now being used for billing purposes. EWOV also analysed the meter data to help explain the billing and charges.

The result of EWOV’s Investigation showed that the retailer had realised in October 2015 that an incorrect multiplier was applied to all meter reads for the caravan park. The incorrect multiplier was a value of 1 and the correct multiplier was a value of 40. Since this correction, billed usage increased 40 times. The electricity distributor also confirmed that the wrong multiplier had been applied. The electricity retailer could have amended previous bills (back 9 months) and re-charged Mrs R for $25,000, but agreed not to re-bill the account to assist with the resolution of the complaint.

The Outcome

EWOV explained the findings of its investigation to Mrs R and the offer of the retailer not to backbill. The electricity retailer also offered a $1,000 credit to assist in the resolution of the complaint. Together with the large payment Mrs R made when she received the bill and the credit of $1,000, the arrears was reduced to $2,113.77. It also provided a six-month extension for Mrs R to repay the arrears, with all future bills to be paid by the due date. As a result of the investigation, Mrs R also advised she would be changing the private check meters at the property, which had been used by the caravan park to bill its tenants and were 30 years old.

Mrs R was satisfied with the offer made and the information provided the case was closed.

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