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Two thirds of Aussies worried they’re being overcharged on energy bills – how you can take power into your own hands

6 min read
23 May 2019

Is your energy provider incorrectly charging you too much for your usage? If you think this is the case you’re not alone, two thirds (63 per cent) of consumers believe their energy company could be making big errors with their invoice and adding incorrect costs to their bill.

With a large proportion of customers potentially shelling out more for their electricity and gas usage, it is up to the consumer to take the power into their own hands, from comparing quarterly costs to fixing an issue with their energy provider.

Leading energy comparison service comparethemarket.com.au commissioned an independent survey of a nationally representative panel of 1,010 Australians[1] to look at consumers’ sentiment around their energy bills.

Many consumers are feeling the pinch and believe the costs of their power bills should drop. Over a third (37 per cent) think rates should be at least 20 per cent lower. A further quarter (28 per cent) think energy rates should drop 30 per cent lower. For example, an energy user on a single tariff plan with a quarterly usage cost of around $251 could enjoy a savings of $75[2].

Incredibly, one in ten (11 per cent) Aussies said their energy bill added up to $500 a quarter[3].

Spokesperson for comparethemarket.com.au Rod Attrill says it’s crucial for consumers to question the total charges listed on their bill and get up to speed on the standard information included, such as tariffs and extra fees, to unlock savings.

Since January 1, energy retailers including Origin, Energy Australia and AGL lowered their standing offer prices, with families and small businesses on these types of plans receiving an automatic discount of up to 15 per cent off their bill[4]. On top of this, providers can now offer a discount for concession customers, shaving 10 – 15 per cent off usage charges.

“Don’t miss out on savings because you didn’t read your bill properly or were too complacent to find better value discounts out there. If you find you’re paying far too much for your energy, shop around and see if you can receive a more competitive rate. Comparison services such as comparethemarket.com.au are an easy way to review your options and find a cheaper energy deal. We can help you cut costs for your household through switching to a better plan,” Rod explains.

 

Comparethemarket.com.au shares tips on how consumers can confidently speak up about incorrect energy charges or issues:

  • How do you escalate a complaint?

As soon as you can, contact your energy provider to explain your issue and the outcome you would like. In a lot of cases, a phone call can fix the problem. This only applies to the primary account holder otherwise; the provider won’t be able to speak to you. If you’re not happy with the answer, you can ask to speak to a manager or even put your concerns in writing – that way, your energy retailer would be aware of your problem and what you want out of this. You also now have a record of your complaint.

If you are still having issues resolving the problem, you can also contact the energy ombudsman scheme in your area[5]. They can offer free, independent services to help resolve the problem.

 

  • How can I speak to my retailer confidently if I believe I’ve been overcharged?

If you think your energy bill is too high, before contacting your provider, ask yourself the following questions[6]:

– Did you use more energy in this particular billing period? (such as an increase in air con or heater usage due to the weather or having extra guests)

– Was this bill an estimate of the amount of energy you have currently used?

– Did you owe an outstanding amount from the previous billing period?

– Did your retailer notify you of an energy price change?

Talk to your energy provider directly if you are still unsure as to why your bill has increased in cost. Speak calmly and have your bill in front of you and even a couple of examples from previous quarters to compare the costs. If you still need help in paying your bill, ask if there are any flexible payment options (such as a payment plan) as well as other assistance that you could use to help out. Remember, loyalty doesn’t always pay. Comparison services such as comparethemarket.com.au helps review multiple energy providers to see if you could switch to receive a more competitive rate for the same energy usage.

 

  • How often does my energy provider actually read my meter?

Energy distributors are different from your energy provider – they are the people who look after your gas and electricity meters. They will come to your place of residence to read your meters and must do this at least once every 12 months to ensure you are only paying for the energy you actually use[7].

Smart meters on the other hand are a little different as they record how much electricity is used for a household or business at regular intervals during the day and then send these readings off (electronically) to your energy distributor directly[8]. This means no one comes to your house to read your meter and you can learn a lot about how much electricity you use day-to-day.

 

  • What questions should I ask if I’m unsure on how much I’m paying for my energy usage?

When you’re ready to investigate whether you’re being overcharged for your energy usage, think about asking your provider the following questions[9]:

– When was the billing period? (The time period in which you used the energy you’re being charged for)

– When was the meter reading completed?

– How much am I charged per kilowatt hour?

– What is the supply charge for the bill period? (This is a fixed amount for supplying your household with energy and isn’t based on how much energy you use)

– What other fees and charges are being applied?

– Am I entitled to any discounts, concessions or rebates?

Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to understand how your bill is calculated to see if you’re being stung by any extra costs.

 

For interviews and more information, please contact:
Hannah Twiggs | +61 7 3377 8879 | +61 422 965 049|
[email protected] 

 

About comparethemarket.com.au
Comparethemarket.com.au is an online comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We help Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy products from a wide range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool enables consumers to find a product that suits their particular circumstances. We’re also in the business of comparing personal finance products, utilities and can help find the lowest fuel prices in your area. Whether it’s car, health or home & contents insurance, we provide a completely free service, that empowers Australians to make informed buying decisions. We’ve got your back, simples.

 

[1] Conducted by PureProfile, June 2018

[2] Comparison based on an Origin Flexi Choice electricity energy plan, Brisbane (Nov 18 – Feb 19). Supply charge not considered in the calculation.

[3] Conducted by PureProfile, June 2018. This was a nationally representative survey group, with respondents living across NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, WA, ACT, NT, TAS

[4] Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Energy – Lower electricity prices in 2019 (Jan 2019): http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/taylor/media-releases/mr20190101.html

[5] Australian Energy Regulator – Making a complaint: https://www.aer.gov.au/consumers/making-a-complaint

[6] Australian Energy Regulator – High Bill?: https://www.aer.gov.au/consumers/my-energy-bill/high-bill

[7] Energy Australia: Understanding your meter: https://www.energyaustralia.com.au/home/bills-and-accounts/understanding-your-meter

Simply Energy: Metering – Data/Meter reading: https://www.simplyenergy.com.au/help-and-support/general-information/metering

Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW: Estimated bills and meter reading: https://www.ewon.com.au/page/customer-resources/managing-your-account/estimated-bills-and-meter-reading

[8]Australian Government – Energy Made Easy: Meter readings: https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/get-energy-smart/energy-bills/meter-readings

[9] Australian Energy Regulator: Understanding your energy bill: https://www.aer.gov.au/consumers/my-energy-bill

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Written by Hannah Twiggs

Hannah (or Twiggs as she's known by most of her colleagues) is a non-stop talker, avid snack eater, dog lover and passionate writer. When she's not chatting to journalists or writing up new story angles, Hannah enjoys a good Netflix binge, going away camping with friends and big brunches - preferably with extra bacon.

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