Top 3 things to do post Sydney bill shock

COVID, increased home consumption, and halt to meter reading is the perfect storm for bill shock

Top 3 things to do post Sydney bill shock

The recent lock-down in New South Wales has led to an uptick in bill shock caused by higher reconciliation bills being issued after an actual meter reading has occurred

Sydney spent almost 4 months under lock-down from July 2021, with the lock-down finally ending on 11 October when NSW reached the 70% threshold for double-dose vaccinations among the 16+ aged population.

There's a lot of impact from a lock-down this big, and for Sydney energy consumers, one of those impacts was a temporary halt to manual meter reading.

About 70% of households across greater Sydney area still use the old 'Type 6' or 'basic' accumulation meters. These measure aggregate consumption only, not time of use, and must be manually read by a field service agent who physically visits your premises to take each reading.

Due to COVID precautions through the lock-down period, standard meter reading activity was halted, meaning that many households were issued estimated energy bills over that period.

During this same period, many households were working at home, or home learning for school, meaning that actual energy consumption was significantly higher than it otherwise would have been in those households.

And this is the winter period when baseline energy consumption is often higher anyway.

This is a perfect storm recipe for bill shock - estimated bills issued over this period would reflect long term average consumption, while actual consumption was much higher in many cases, leading to a higher then expected bill when an actual reading is performed and a reconciliation bill is issued.

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR BILL IS BASED ON AN ESTIMATE OR AN ACTUAL READ

Your bill will display the reading type in the detailed breakdown of the bill items. Here's an example for a Bill Hero subscriber

Example of an estimated electricity bill
Here's what an estimated bill looks like from AGL. Other retailers differ in presentation, but estimated or actual meter reading is always included in every bill

TOP 3 THINGS TO DO

If you're caught out by bill shock, here's the top three things you can do:

  1. Review your past bills or contact your retailer and confirm if you've had recent estimated bills followed by a reconciliation bill based on actual meter reading
  2. Every retailer is obliged to offer payment plans, so you can arrange for staged payment of this unexpectedly higher bill if you need to
  3. If you're dissatisfied with the payment plans offered by your retailer, you always have recourse to your relevant state based Ombudsman

Of course bill shock can also be caused by other things, such as the expiry of a limited term introductory price or discount, a faulty meter, or faulty thermostats or appliances, or unanticipated consumption which can happen if you set the thermostat for heating or hot water appliances higher than before, or if you introduce a new appliance into your home.

Bill Hero exists to help make sure you never overpay for energy again. Our main service is to automatically analyse and run a personalised comparison on each bill you receive to let you know what savings are available to you, and initiate a switch whenever we find savings for you greater than your personal 'Bothered Threshold'.

We can also help you engage effectively with your retailer to achieve satisfactory outcomes if you've suffered bill shock. This can include reissue of bills if there's been an error, or setup of a payment plan.

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