Residential customer receives a backbill for more than $10,000 due to previously low estimated bills (January 2013)

Billing mistakes, Delayed and catch-up bills
Case Number 2013/60224
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

The customer was dissatisfied with her electricity company after it issued a backbill for about $10,500. She contacted her company to find out why it had sent such a large bill and was advised that her meter was inaccessible (because of a locked gate) and therefore recent bills had not been based on actual meter reads and had been estimated. The customer was surprised because she:

  • did not have access issues with the gas meter which was located next to the electricity meter
  • had been with the company for over 10 years and was unaware of any previous access issues
  • thought that the company should have issued more accurate estimated bills based on her historical consumption.

The company said that the last bill based on an actual read was in May 2011. She queried this, as she had a bill from May 2012 which stated that it was based on an actual meter read. The company advised that this was an error. The electricity company advised the customer that it had notified her of the meter access issues by letter on 5 November 2012 and 10 May 2013.  It also said it would investigate the issue and re-contact the customer with a resolution. However, this did not occur.

Dissatisfied with the company’s response and failure to follow up, she contacted EWOV for assistance on 1 October 2013 and an Assisted Referral was raised. The customer was contacted initially by a representative at the company, however, this process failed when the company did not return her follow up voicemail messages.

The customer recontacted EWOV on 11 October 2013 about the failed Assisted Referral and EWOV attempted to get the customer and the company back in touch with each other to try and facilitate a resolution. However, the company again failed to re-contact the customer within the agreed timeframe. Dissatisfied with this, the customer returned to EWOV on 15 October 2013 and an Investigation commenced.

The Outcome

The company apologised for the ongoing billing issues. It acknowledged that the error with the May 2012 bill (printed as an actual meter read but was estimated) constituted a failure of its billing system. This therefore limited the amount of time that the company could issue the bill for in line with the Energy Retail Code.  Due to this, it waived all consumption charges greater than nine months, totaling $6,626. As a result of the amended billing, the customer owed the electricity company about $840. Although the customer was entitled to nine months (equal time) to pay the balance, she opted to pay it in full.

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