Estimated bills, overcharging and undercharging

Sometimes your energy distributor does not read the meter. This might happen if:

  • the meter was broken, or
  • it was not safe or easy to get to your meter.

In this case the energy retailer has to make an estimate. This means the energy retailer will guess how much energy you used.

To make an estimate, the energy retailer:

  • looks at the bill from the same period last year to see how much energy you used, then
  • makes the new bill about the same as last year’s bill.

The retailer can also make an estimate by looking at the energy used by a similar customer.

If the energy retailer used an estimate, your bill might have ‘estimated reading’ or ‘E’ next to the usage charge.

What if my bill is less than it should be?

Sometimes the amount of energy you use is more than what the retailer estimated. This means your bill or bills have been less than they should. When this happens, we say that the retailer undercharged you.

If your bills have been less than they should have been, your next bill will probably be larger to include the amount that you owe the retailer.

What happens if it was the retailer’s fault that I was undercharged?

Sometimes, it’s the retailer’s fault that your bills have been too low. For example, they might have had problems with their billing system.

If it’s the retailer’s fault, you only have to repay what you owe for the last 9 months.

Example

You got your new bill. The retailer told you it has undercharged you $10 every month for 15 months. The total amount you were undercharged was $150.

You only have to pay back what you owe for the last 9 months. This means you only have to pay $90.

What happens if it was my fault that I was undercharged?

Sometimes, it’s your fault that your bills have been too low.

For example, the retailer had to estimate the bills because energy distributor staff could not safely get to your meter.

You have to pay the full amount that has been undercharged.

Example

You got your new bill. The retailer told you that it has undercharged you $10 every month for 15 months because it had to estimate how much energy you used. The total amount you were undercharged was $150.

You have to pay back the whole amount you owe—$150. This is because it was your fault the retailer had to estimate how much you used.

How long do I have to repay the money?

You do not have to repay the money you owe all at once.

How long you have depends on how long your bills have been wrong.

  • If you were undercharged for more than 12 months, you have 12 months to pay the amount you owe. For example, if you were undercharged for 15 months, you have 12 months to pay the amount you owe.
  • If you were undercharged for less than 12 months, you need to first work out the number of months that the bills have been too low. You have the same number of months to pay the amount you owe. For example, if you were undercharged for 4 months, you have 4 months to pay the amount you owe.

What if my bill is more than it should be?

Sometimes your bill or bills can be more than they should be. This happens when you use less energy than what the retailer estimated. When this happens, we say that the retailer overcharged you. 

  • If the retailer overcharged you less than $50, they must take that amount off your next bill.
  • If the retailer overcharged you more than $50, you can ask the retailer to:
    • take the amount off your next bill, or
    • give you back the money. For example, send you a cheque.

Complaints

You can contact the energy ombudsman if you:

  • don’t agree with the bill, and 
  • can’t solve it with your retailer.

Their contact details are on our Useful contacts page.

Last updated on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 17:10