Reading and interpreting electricity bills isn’t always straightforward. However, it’s an important skill to have in order to maintain control of the household budget and to ensure the charges listed are accurate.  While the order of information and specifics may differ between different energy providers, the same essentials will be listed. This includes usage costs, payment methods and key account details, among others.

We outline the key features displayed on energy bills so they’re easier to interpret, minimising confusion, misunderstanding and the time spent deciphering the figures.

The basics

Before getting stuck into the fine print, like the charges and payment options it pays to take a look at the basic details listed at the top of your energy bill. This is particularly important if it’s your first bill with a new provider, if you’ve recently changed your account details, or moved house.

Account details – At the top of your bill you’ll see your basic account details. This includes the name of the account holder or holders, the supply address that you’re being charged for, and your account reference number.

Tip: If the supply address is your business location, keep a copy of the invoice filed away for taxation purposes.

Contact details. There will be contact details on your energy bill for any general queries and account information, payment via the phone and also to lodge complaints or report faults affecting your energy service. If there isn’t a specific number for each of these channels, dial the main number on the bill and follow the prompts for enquiry redirection.

Key dates. Your bill will clearly outline the due date for payment, along with the exact dates that sit within this particular billing period.

Understanding your charges

Charges for electricity supply will be broken down into various pricing structures and rate types. Here’s a quick rundown of the different rate types and charges you’re likely to encounter:

Peak rates. A higher rate which is charged for energy consumption during the busy times of the day.

Off-peak rates. A reduced rate charged for energy consumption during quieter times of the day.

Tariffs

  • Fixed or flat rate: the same amount is charged, regardless of time of day.
  • Time-of-use pricing: prices vary depending on what time of day you’re using energy in your home.

Connection fees. If you’re a new customer, there may be an account connection fee added to your first bill. The same may apply when transferring the account over to a new address.

Payment methods

This section typically sits at the bottom of your electricity bill. This section outlines the payment options available to you, along with the accompanying details, i.e. BPay biller codes, phone number or URL for credit card payments, or an address if you’re sending a cheque or money order via the post.

The bottom of your bill may also feature a tear away slip on the bottom, to be used if you are sending your payment through the post. This slip will include all the relevant account details on there to ensure payment is made without fault.

Tip. A note about direct debit: While the benefit of direct debit payments is primarily the low effort and no fuss factor, and it’s important to take the time to review your bill and ensure there are no discrepancies or issues prior to payment date. Similarly, if the bill is larger than other months, you’ll need to ensure there are enough funds in your designated account to make the payment with no delays.

Usage information and comparisons

Your energy bill may feature comparative graphs and charts to illustrate energy usage over the billed period and to compare your usage to that of others in your local area. This is useful to identify what the average household of a similar size, for example, a four-person household, uses in the same period so you can see if you’re using more or less.

For those of you who receive the bill online via email, you may also have access to comprehensive daily charge breakdowns so you can gain a better understanding of your usage, and if there are any times of the day where excessive energy is being used.

Payment terms and obligations

There are specific obligations that apply to both the customer and the energy supplier during the billing and payment period. The biller is obligated to clearly disclose the account charges and payment dates along with contact details in order to answer any customer queries and concerns. Similarly, the customer is required to pay the bill by the specified date. Otherwise, they run the risk of additional charges and service disruptions – perhaps even potential service disconnection.

Contact your energy provider should you have any specific queries regarding your energy bill.