Billing errors are uncommon but, when they occur, may be the result of a glitch in the retailer’s billing system.
Typical billing errors that may cause a bill to appear higher include:
- charging the wrong tariff per kilowatt-hour of electricity or megajoule of gas
- incorrectly charging peak electricity pricing for an eligible off-peak appliance
- not crediting a bill for electricity fed back into the grid by a solar PV system
- meter reading incorrectly recorded (ie numbers read in the wrong order).
Your retailer is allowed to estimate your energy consumption to prepare your bills. Retailers must do their best to read your meter as frequently as required to prepare your bills, but must read it at least once every 12 months.
Estimated bills are based on how much electricity or gas you have used in the past, or on the average usage of homes in the surrounding area, and are indicated by the letter ‘e’ or the word ‘estimated’ next to the usage amount on the bill. Sometimes, estimated bills can mean you receive an unexpectedly high or low bill.
Over-estimated readings and high bills
If your meter reading is recorded incorrectly or your energy consumption is estimated too high, it may lead to you being overcharged.
If an energy meter reading error means you are overcharged less than $50, the retailer must credit the amount on your next bill. If the error means you are overcharged more than $50, you can request an alternative method for repayment, such as a cheque, or request the amount to be applied as a credit on your next bill.
Under-estimated readings and catch-up bills
If a retailer undercharges you and then realises the error, you may receive a large catch-up bill. This most commonly happens when a retailer:
- has not billed you for your energy use for an extended period of time
- bases one or more bills on estimated consumption (not actual consumption) and has under-estimated the amount used.
The catch-up bill must include:
- the billing period
- the tariffs and charges that were applicable during the period of undercharging
- the amount the customer consumed in that period at each of the applicable tariffs but has not been billed for.
If you are at fault for the undercharging, eg if you have not provided safe and unobstructed access to the meter, you must pay the full amount that has been charged, no matter how far back it goes.
Your energy retailer cannot request that you pay the total amount undercharged at once.
If the undercharging has occurred for less than 12 months, you must be offered the same length of time to pay.
If the undercharging has occurred for 12 months or more, you are entitled to 12 months to pay.
If the undercharging was the fault of the retailer, they are limited to recovering the amount undercharged in the nine months before they notified you of the undercharging.