Are you being overcharged for energy?

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If you believe your energy company is charging you too much for your usage, you are not alone.

Nearly 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.

Energy comparison service comparethemarket.com.au commissioned an independentsurvey of a nationally representative panel of 1010 Australians to look at consumer sentiment around their energy bills.

The survey found that many consumers are feeling the pinch and believe their power bills should drop.

Over a third (37 per cent) believe rates should be at least 20 per cent lower. A further 28 per cent think energy rates should drop 30 per cent lower.

Incredibly, more than one in 10 Australians (11 per cent) said their energy bill added up to $500 a quarter.

Spokesperson for comparethemarket.com.au, Rod Attrill, said it was crucial for consumers to question the total charges listed on their bill and become familiar with the standard information included, such as tariffs and extra fees.

Since 1 January, energy retailers including Origin, Energy Australia and AGL lowered their standing offer prices, with people on these types of plans receiving an automatic discount of up to 15 per cent.

On top of this, providers can now offer a discount for concession customers, shaving 10 to 15 per cent off usage charges.

What to do if you suspect an issue
If you think your energy bill is too high, before contacting your provider, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you use more energy in this particular billing period? (Consider whether you used an air conditioner or heater more than usual due to the weather or by having extra guests.)
  • Was this bill an estimate of the amount of energy you have 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. In many cases, a phone call can fix the problem. The caller must be 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 put your concerns in writing – that way, your energy retailer would be aware of your problem. You also now have a record of your complaint.

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

Do you think you are being overcharged for your energy use? Are you too loyal to your energy provider?

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Written by Ben

33 Comments

Total Comments: 33
  1. 0
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    That’s not a large enough sample size of survey results….1010 out of 21 odd million?

  2. 0
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    There should be one standard rate per Kw/h charge.The service charges are a joke and a con. Why is it that when you change your plan for higher on time payment discount they increase your rate per Kw/h usage?
    Why is the government allowing this criminality to continue? Is it because they are crooks also?

    • 0
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      Getting my roof system on soon – I calculated that I give them $180 worth of power per month – they give me $57 for it, then charge me the connection fee of $100 a month.

      I pay them $43 a month for the privilege of providing them with power to sell to someone else.

      Hardly good business, is it?

    • 0
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      Trebor, whether or not it is good business depends upon which side you occupy.

      Don’t forget that you need to deduct from your monthly income depreciation and maintenance costs.

      My 3 Kw system commenced cost almost $10,000 and commenced operation on 4 February 2012. It has generated 28749 units up to today (26/5), so the return to me has been about $7762.23. However the feed-in tariff has now dropped to a ridiculously low figure – the last time I did my calculations it appeared that the annual profit the seller receives from the sale of electricity made by my system will be slightly more than what the system saves me.

      My inverter is now 10 years old and out of warranty. Panels are covered by warranty for 2 years, I think, but I was warned that efficiency declines with time.

      Where you are fortunate is that prices have fallen substantially since I purchased my system, so the cost of depreciation is correspondingly less.

      If you are thinking of a storage battery, be careful. I did my sums which I presented to a salesman trying to sell me a system, then asked him to show me how such a purchase would be viable. He couldn’t, and that was before we even considered the cost of replacing the battery when it died.

    • 0
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      Trebor, whether or not it is good business depends upon which side you occupy.

      Don’t forget that you need to deduct from your monthly income depreciation and maintenance costs.

      My 3 Kw system commenced cost almost $10,000 and commenced operation on 4 February 2012. It has generated 28749 units up to today (26/5), so the return to me has been about $7762.23. However the feed-in tariff has now dropped to a ridiculously low figure – the last time I did my calculations it appeared that the annual profit the seller receives from the sale of electricity made by my system will be slightly more than what the system saves me.

      My inverter is now 10 years old and out of warranty. Panels are covered by warranty for 2 years, I think, but I was warned that efficiency declines with time.

      Where you are fortunate is that prices have fallen substantially since I purchased my system, so the cost of depreciation is correspondingly less.

      If you are thinking of a storage battery, be careful. I did my sums which I presented to a salesman trying to sell me a system, then asked him to show me how such a purchase would be viable. He couldn’t, and that was before we even considered the cost of replacing the battery when it died.

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      Correction – panels are guaranteed for 25 years.

    • 0
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      Correction – panels are guaranteed for 25 years.

  3. 0
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    The price per unit of power plus the connection fee will not go down as long as there is a ‘need’ to feed duplicated and wasteful multiple companies with overpaid honchoes, and now shareholders who did not exist before ‘privatisation’.

    The business model is simply inefficient for the purpose of supplying as a service.

    Privatisation, like feminism (ask BillCo), has been given its chance – now it is time to move on and away from those social and economic disasters, and back to the core objective of the whole thing.

    • 0
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      Totally agree Trebor

    • 0
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      It is all part of the wonders of privatisation. We were promised greater efficiency leading to lower prices but they trot out the old mantra of “it wasn’t for privatisation prices would be even higher” yeah right.

    • 0
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      It is all part of the wonders of privatisation. We were promised greater efficiency leading to lower prices but they trot out the old mantra of “it wasn’t for privatisation prices would be even higher” yeah right.

  4. 0
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    AGL overcharged us for 15yrs and we finally found out when we changed providers and had solar attached to our house. We spoke to them so many times and they kept saying it must be one of our appliances drawing the extra power. We purchased an item that allowed us to check every electrical item and we could only get to max 10kw with average 7kw per 24hrs. We were being charged continually for anywhere from 20-40kws even when overseas!!! Went to ombudsman who said need to sort it out with supplier…really!! Finally had enough and changed to another supplier and all of a sudden our kw usage was where it should be for a house our size and where most of our large usage items are gas! So now instead of having a bill of 2500.00 per year we are 800.00 and kw usage is 7-10 per 24hrs. These large energy suppliers are not held accountable even when you query it. We have always paid 2500 or there abouts for 22 years so how much are they making off so many who just blindly follow because it is a hassle to change supplier.

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      Agree with Gazza about AGL. They told me I was receiving a 44% discount on their usual rate and the bills were always horrendous. We have ducted heating/cooling but even so. Then I went to one of those electricity wizard stalls in a shopping centre, who recommended I change to Allity. Now our bills are one third of what they were (i.e.when I pay their 3 monthly bill, it’s about the same as I was paying for one month with AGL), provided I pay on time as I always do with an automatic payment.

  5. 0
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    There is a problem in trying to guess or estimate what the true energy bill should be. If people have a solar power system, it’s even far more difficult. To compound the problem even further, when you have gas charges plus electricity charges from the one supplier (each as separate bills). it becomes nearly impossible to gauge. The only way to determine whether one is being charged a set fee at a certain rate and what percentage of that fee is a pure increase in charges in lieu of whether the charge is due to an increase in usage is to my way of thinking, based on the following:

    1. First, establish whether or not your normal usage in gas/electricity has changed from the previous month. Have you had a new influx of visitor/s to the family, who could easily double the gas use or electricity or both?
    2. Are your feed-in tariffs from solar gain being affected by changes in solar activity? As we move into winter, solar output decreases daily
    3. By now, you probably would have realized the only way to gauge your bill as being average and within expected levels is to compare like with like: You need to keep a daily account of both meters Gas and Electricity and record and write down megajoules of gas used and kilowatt hours of electricity used day by day.
    4. If you have a new tenant or friend or relative joining the family unit, and your usage rate suddenly increases that day from one day to the next, note the increase. If the next week’s usage stays at the higher level during the time of the increase in the household’s usage, then you could apply the increase from before visitors your arrival to after, as a percentage increase.
    5. Examples of expected increases are: More showers daily (Usually gas driven), more washing time (either gas fired hot water or electrically heated water), more ironing time (electrical), more cooking time (gas or electrical). More pool usage in summer (usually electrical usage) but heated spas, more gas usage. autumn/spring more blower usage (2.4 kW/hr), more hair dryers usage (electrical)and finally increased usage of power for heating and lighting and vacuuming in additional rooms.
    6. These heavy additional use charges can easily mask supply increased charges, that’s why it’s important to record usage rates by reading the meters day by day.

    Note your bills are based on monthly/quarterly usage. You need to keep all bills and compare usage rates from month to month, dividing by the No. of days in that month or quarter by the number of days to get a daily figure. Note also that supply companies must advise of you of intended increases in advance, so note these increases. Only then can you compare whether or not there has been an obvious unexplained increase.

    You also need to compare what last year’s results were (assuming no additional changes to numbers in the household) compared to the current time. Motto, compare like with like wherever possible.

    If you’re mathematically minded, then prepare a spreadsheet in Excel where you can input daily information read from the meters and the program will summarise the results, add new charge rate % changes and compare last year’s data with the present.

    If that’s too much, do nothing, enjoy a cuppa, have a beer, light your log fire and enjoy a game of footy

    • 0
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      Absolutely, It’s what I do. My spreadsheet has daily readings from 2009, daily costs, includes my solar panel export and calculates annual and average costs per bill. Today’s entry is on line 3156. 🙂

    • 0
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      That’s exactly what I do – have a spreadsheet that I enter each power bill into. That is the best way to check for consistency. Twice in the past 7 years I have picked up errors with the bill (obviously in favor of the supplier), which took months of hassling to sort out.
      Best thing is to (a) NEVER accept an ‘estimate’ bill. If they grossly over-estimate, they expect you to just ‘pay it and it will sort itself out’.
      (b) keep a detailed spread sheet and question it if there appears anomalies.
      What I DO strongly object to is the obscene extra fees they add on. My service/extra charges have increased – from 2012 to now – by 827%. I just wish my wage could have increased by the same rate.

    • 0
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      Years ago you would never have to go to the extremes you have explained above, to these days. Quarterly electricity bills never caused much of a problem, never questioned them hardly ever, just paid them. Who wants to spend every day of their life checking the electricity usage? The service availability charge is a rort. Started off some years ago at around 60 cents and just look how much it has risen to now.
      It should never have been privatised, like a whole lot of other utilities etc.

    • 0
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      I don’t see what the problem is when calculating your bill.When the meter man has read the meter, so do I, then work it out from that reading, and my answer is within a dollar or so, depending the number of days of supply. My service charge is now 57 cents/day. It takes me around 2-3 minutes to work out my bill, Bexcause of a guestimate by the meter man,over a year ago, and solar and Govt. rebate, I haven’t paid a bill in a year, my previous credit adds on each 1/4. I would say my service charge has increrased by around 60% since 2012. It could well be less. My billalways shows how much difference there is from my usage for the same period the previous year. It actually went down.

  6. 0
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    Got solar panels about 4 years ago. Since then been very pleased with the amount of my power bills. We do try and use items like the dishwasher and washing machine during the day. My gas bill however, especially at this time of the year is through the roof. Maybe I should use the electric for heating, although that won’t save at night.

  7. 0
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    If you want lower power bills you need to manage your power usage. This does not mean looking at your bill and saying “Geezus”. Management consists of planning and monitoring. I read my meter every day and, with a spreadsheet but paper and a calculator is good, work out my cost for the previous day. If it is suddenly high you will have some chance of remembering yesterday. Was it cold, was it hot, did we do the washing yesterday, was the machine set to use hot water, did I leave something on in the shed. You can’t do that at the end of the month or quarter. My total consumption is down 20% over the last 8 years. As I have panels I also monitor those. At this time of year that reminds me to trim that tree near the panels to limit its height. My average bimonthly power bill over the last 8 years, after rebates, is $34.00. When I get my power bill I check it against my calculations and I’m usually within $2 of the charges.

  8. 0
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    The energy sector has been gouging the public for ages. Time for regulation and a Royal Commission.

  9. 0
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    No point taking this problem to the government – both State and federal governments have directly caused this problem of electricity cost by privatisation (State) and no energy policy
    (federal). Its going to get even worse with Morrison re-elected – the only Prime minister with a pet rock he takes into parliament with him (a lump of coal). Suck it up or do what i did – find a reliable Australian owned supplier with transparent rates and sensible discounts (think Red).and fit as much solar as you can -its very cheap to instal. I have a fully air conditioned home, a large inground pool, 2 large fridges, 2 freezers and numerous pumps and my largest quarterly account in the last 12 months has been $160.

    • 0
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      Yes.

      People need to learn to look after themselves a bit because there is no way the Government is going to. They work for the Corporations now.

  10. 0
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    Arvo, do you mean you arer getting 31.6 cents/Kw from your solar system ($57 divided by $180 ) No one pays that, as for paying $100 for service charge, wow, I pay $52 a quarter, and get 11.5 cents/kW hour from Red Energy. My on time payment went up, but cost of my rate /kW hour went slightly down, and of course if you live in Qld, you get a govt. rebaste of about 89 cents per day suppplied.

    • 0
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      Theo, that’s a lot of work. I put aside into a power account $50 per fortnight, which easily covered my bills, (when I was getting them) and gas, (2 cylinders a year from Elgas, no way Origin. There are 2 of us BTW, not just me.

    • 0
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      FrankC- I’m not sure what you talking about. I don’t have a solar system. Never stated that I did. As I reside in a strata home unit there has not been unity for roof solar panels because the owners who rent out are not interested.
      So whatever you are bragging about has no relevance to my situation.

    • 0
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      Frank C, not much work really once it was all set up. Takes me a few minutes to go and get my readings from the meter each day (it’s 100 metres each way :-), and my aim is also to reduce not only my power bills but also my consumption and thereby my footprint on the planet. There are also two of us and we also use two bottles of gas a year for hot water and cooking. Heating is by a wood fire, the wood is sourced from my back yard and we definitely grow more wood than we burn each year.

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