A technical glitch affecting ActewAGL’s meter reading and billing system has left hundreds if not thousands of Canberrans confused and frustrated about what they owe for their gas service in recent weeks.
Some customers have received estimated bills despite meter readers accessing and reading meters successfully. In many cases the estimates are much higher than previous bills for the same property.
Others have received notices saying meter readers were unable to access their meters, despite the meters being as accessible as ever. These customers have also received estimates, again at times significantly higher than typical bills.
General manager of ActewAGL retail Ayesha Razzaq told ABC radio this morning that the company would ensure no customer was worse off as a result of the technical problems.
“There has been an IT glitch, we admit that,” she said.
“The meters are being read correctly, but there are delays between the IT system, which the distribution companies have upgraded, and sending that data to retailers.”
The delays mean estimated bills have been sent out automatically – within five days of a scheduled meter read – to ensure the company met regulatory requirements to bill at least every 120 days.
Ms Razzaq said the estimates were created in line with on industry guidelines and in most cases were based on a customer’s average daily usage.
“If a customer has paid too much, or too little in this billing quarter, their account will be adjusted in the next bill,” Ms Razzaq said.
“What we are asking is if customers have any concerns about their gas bills to please call us and we can issue a bill, we can apply a credit, we can pay the cash back into their account, so our team will be happy to help and discuss their individual circumstances.”
She said every bill would be adjusted, and if customers wanted to, they could check their meter to see whether the reading was in line with their bill.
Ms Razzaq said the problems began when network companies in NSW and the ACT transitioned to a new system to manage the meter data.
“This change was in response to a regulatory framework that was required, and what that’s meant is there’s been delays sending meter read information between the network systems and the retail systems so retailers can bill customers accurately,” the ActewAGL executive said.
She said it had affected household gas users throughout NSW and the ACT, not just ActewAGL customers in Canberra.
“We’re all trying to do our best to resolve it,” she said.
“Customers should be entitled to an accurate bill, I totally agree with all customers there.”
The RiotACT has received two messages from readers who have experienced problems in recent weeks.
One Ainslie customer received two bills, two days apart with a $100 difference in price, then a follow-up letter saying that the meter was obstructed, when it wasn’t and had been in the same place for years.
Another customer, Susie van den Heuvel, told the RiotACT she’d been advised to ignore an initial bill because the subsequent bill would be as much as $300 less.
“Our past two gas bills have been estimates – initially they implied they couldn’t access the meter but I pointed out it had been in the same place for more than 30 years,” Ms van den Heuvel said.
“They said it might have been because they didn’t have a reader in the area. The last bill was overestimated by $300 – when I rang they said it had been read and corrected.
“However, the invoice for the reduced amount still says it is an estimate.”
Ms van den Heuvel said the telephone service officer confirmed ActewAGL had had a lot of complaints and told her it was being looked at “higher up”.