How to deal with incorrect energy meter estimates

Estimated energy bills are legal, but these estimates can be wrong. If you’ve received an estimated bill you may have been charged for energy you didn’t use, or you may have been undercharged, which means your next bill will be higher.

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What’s the issue?

Energy meter estimate too high?

Energy companies are some of the most critical businesses we deal with. They literally keep the lights on. Energy companies can only charge you for the energy you use, but sometimes they may not be able to confirm exactly how much you have used.

For most customers, your energy provider will do a reading of your energy and gas consumption every 3 months. But in some cases they may not be able to take an accurate reading, so will do an estimate instead. Some of the reasons that you may receive an estimated reading include where: 

  • Your meter wasn’t accessible to the meter reader – for example, where your meter is behind a locked gate, or where the reader couldn’t get access because of plants blocking the way. 
  • You have a smart meter which isn’t providing data to your provider.
  • Your meter is broken and isn’t able to give an appropriate reading.
  • You have switched energy providers and a reading hasn’t been done yet. 

Where an accurate reading can’t be done your energy provider will send you a bill based on an estimate. 

What do you need to know?

A meter estimate may mean an incorrect bill

If you’ve received an estimated reading your energy provider will have to correct it on your next bill once they’ve been able to do a proper reading. But we understand that for many people it’s important to have certainty that you’re paying the right amount so that you can budget properly, and not get hit with unexpected bill shock. If you’ve received an estimated reading there are some things you can do to make sure you’ve been charged the correct amount. 

  1. Check your meter yourself. Does the estimate provided looks right. Most energy providers provide a ‘how to’ for reading your meter, such as this one from Origin. If your own reading is higher than the estimate you received you probably haven’t been overcharged, but you may end up paying more on your next bill.
  2. Provide your energy company with your own meter reading. Using this, your provider can correct your bill before you pay it. Your energy provider’s website should give you instructions on how you can provide them with this information.
  3. Problem with access to your meter? If you receive multiple estimated readings in a row that may suggest that there’s a problem with access to your meter. Check that your meter isn’t behind a locked gate or blocked by your garden or some other obstruction. We were able to help one customer whose energy provider said they couldn’t get access even though their meter was located in the front yard and no obvious reason it couldn’t be read. In that case it may be helpful to take a photo of your meter to give to your provider so you can show it’s accessible.
Just a bit more

Where your energy provider isn’t able to make an accurate reading they need to follow the National Energy Retail Rules when making an estimate. This means an estimate has to be based on:  

  • A meter reading you have provided your energy company;
  • Old energy data for the customer (i.e. your energy usage from the same quarter during the previous year); or
  • Average energy use by similar households. 

If you provide the energy retailer with your own reading prior to the due date for payment on your bill they need to take this into account for the purpose of any adjustment request.

What can you do?

Contact your energy provider about your estimated meter reading

When you’ve received an estimated energy bill that looks wrong to you, make sure you query it with your energy provider as soon as possible, and always before it is due to be paid. When making a complaint to your energy provider about your bill make sure that you have the following information with you: 

  • Your customer number.
  • The estimated reading you’ve received and your own self-reading of your meter.
  • The outcome that you’d want to resolve the issue.
  • How long the issue has been going on, especially if you have received multiple estimated bills in a row.

For more information on how to make a complaint to your energy provider about your meter reading take a look at our article here. Or if you need more help try using Ajust to resolve your meter estimate issue. Ajust is free to use and can help you make a complaint to any energy company in Australia. Just let us know what problem you’re having with your energy bill or estimate and we’ll take it from there.


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