Power users urged to get smart

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Electricity consumers are being urged to get savvy when the bill lands and possibly save themselves hundreds of dollars.
One Contact Energy customer was invoiced $675 for power used from June 23 to July 27. Their previous bill was in credit, while their bill for May-June was for $231.
Curious as to why their latest bill was so high, the customer, who wanted to remain anonymous, called Contact Energy to challenge the difference.
The company’s staff member who took the call confirmed the readings were based on meter estimates. The customer, in fact, owed only $165.
Timaru Budget Advisory Trust co-ordinator Don Macfarlane said the issue was not uncommon. ‘‘It’s not an infrequent problem, especially for those that have readings every three months instead of every month.’’
‘ It’s not an infrequent problem ‘
— Timaru Budget Advisory Trust co-ordinator Don Macfarlane
He urged people to read their own meter to avoid being overcharged. Hooking into a smooth pay system was also advised so a set amount was being paid by the consumer each month.
Customers with old meters, yet to be replaced with smart meters, were among those who could be caught out, Contact Energy spokesman Shaun Jones said.
He said customers with older meters received invoices based on readings collected periodically by meter readers. Estimates were based on historical use at the property in other months, or in instances where the meter reader was unable to gain access to read the meter.
About 5000 Contact customers in the South Canterbury and Timaru area have a smart meter, meaning their electricity invoices are based on actual meter readings each month, he said.
‘‘We expect to complete our rollout of the new meters to remaining Contact customers in the region [who are able to have one installed] by early 2018.’’
In the meantime, customers with an old meter who received an estimate bill that appeared higher than expected, should compare the reading on their invoice with the current reading on their electricity meter, he said.
‘‘If there’s adifference in the readings, customers can provide the updated actual meter reading via our mobile app, email, or by calling us, to ensure they only pay for the electricity they’ve used that month.
‘‘We’re also happy to talk to customers about possible causes of a higher than expected [bill], where actual readings indicate there has been an increase in electricity used.’’