Can you dispute your energy bill?

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Just when it seems your budget is in order, the energy bill arrives. Wait, surely those numbers can’t be right… Did I really use that much power this quarter, or is something amiss here from my retailer? Unfortunately, this is a predicament that many Aussies are faced with, so it pays to know your options as a consumer if you’re disputing your latest electricity or gas bill. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know, including who to contact, what to expect, as well as details about the dispute resolution process.

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Contesting Your Energy Bill

If you’re convinced your bill is a little off centre, then there are a couple of avenues you can take. However, the first port of call should be with your retailer, the business who bills you for using power. According to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), you should make contact with your retailer if you believe a bill is incorrect. Here are the steps you can take:

Step One: Contact Your Energy Retailer

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When contacting your retailer, make sure you have your bill nearby. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what you’ll need to do:

  • Provide your full name and account number (usually found at the top of a bill).
  • Remain calm and provide clear information about which part of the bill you’re disputing.
  • Take note of the date and time of the phone call, as well as the name of the person you are speaking with.
  • Ask to speak with a manager or supervisor to discuss any further options if you feel the situation has not been resolved.
  • Again, write down the person’s name, as well as the particulars you spoke about, including any agreed terms or conditions.

Step Two: Contact the Ombudsman

Smartphone with law hammer and books with text

If your complaint has not been resolved within an agreed timeframe with your retailer, then you may wish to contact the energy ombudsman. Here’s a list of the ombudsman contacts in each state and territory:

  • NSW: Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (1800 246 545)
  • VIC: Energy & Water Ombudsman Victoria (1800 500 509)
  • QLD: Energy & Water Ombudsman Queensland (1800 662 837)
  • SA: Energy & Water Ombudsman South Australia (1800 665 565)
  • ACT: ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (02 6207 1740)
  • TAS: Energy Ombudsman Tasmania (1800 001 170)

What happens when you contest an energy bill?

This will ultimately come down to the first step and how your provider handles your complaint in accordance with state or territory retail law. Some energy companies have trained professionals to deal with disputes, while others may just have customer service representatives, which may play a part in how your dispute is resolved. It could also depend on the circumstances and nature of your complaint, where outcomes will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

If in doubt, always refer to the energy price fact sheets for a full breakdown of your plan’s rates, fees and charges. Keep in mind these fact sheets may be called Basic Product Information Documents.

How long does it take for disputes to be resolved?

When dealing with energy disputes, it’s best to talk through your options by coming up with an agreed response time of 10 business days. This gives your retailer enough time to respond properly within a reasonable timeframe, while taking your complaint/s into consideration. Just make sure you keep note of all correspondence with the retailer, that way you can refer to it if the matter is not resolved and needs to be escalated.

When should you contact your energy distributor?

Unlike retailers, energy distributors are the companies who maintain electricity grids and gas networks across Australia. That means the wires, power poles, meters and mains gas pipes that supply power to your home or business. You should only ever have to contact your distributor if power supply to your premises has been disconnected or interrupted, or to report an outage or  fallen powerlines.

Can energy bills be wrong?

The short answer is yes, they can be. But it’s very unlikely. If you have a smart meter, your electricity usage will be passed onto your retailer digitally for billing, meaning there is little chance of this going wrong. If you have an old type of energy meter, this will be read manually by someone from your local energy distributor about every three months. This is when some human error could potentially come into play if the correct usage figures are not noted properly. But again, this is unlikely.

  • If you’ve received a bill you’re convinced is wrong, the reality is that your energy usage has probably changed over recent weeks and months, without you realising (e.g. you’ve started using the air con for an hour or two a day when you didn’t before).
  • The other possible explanation is that you’ve received an estimated bill, either because your meter was inaccessible for the meter reader, or because you have signed up to a plan with monthly billing, in which case you’ll receive estimated bills two out of three months in the quarter, followed by a settlement bill to get your balance straight.

Either way, if you have doubts, it doesn’t hurt to check. Your retailer will likely ask you to take your own meter reading – or submit a picture of it – to compare against the reading they have. Then you will know if the bill was wrong or not.

Is it time you switched to a new provider?

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this then you’re probably ready for a change of scenery. At Canstar Blue, we compare prices from more than 35 electricity and gas retailers, some of which we’ve listed deals from below. We pride ourselves on making your life easier as well as helping you find a better deal, so start comparing today.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Image credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.com

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