Connect with us:

Overcoming Bill Shock on Private Meters

A strata manager from a large strata management company got a call from a disgruntled owner. Here’s the advice the strata manager needed to know.

“Whoa! $850 electricity bill for one quarter? How can that be? I only paid $200 for the last quarter.”

That was what one strata resident experienced last month.  The culprit was an estimated meter read. When an old electricity meter is not physically read during the quarter, energy retailers still send the customer a bill which is a guess of how much energy they consumed in that quarter. To make the guess, they estimate how many people are living in that particular apartment and charge them accordingly.​
​The bill in this case came from Energy Australia. The guess was over 4 times as much as the previous bill sent to the same customer for the previous quarter.

The strata resident then called their strata manager to see if there was any reason why their meter was not read. The strata manager responded that the meter room was accessible from the street. (All that was needed was a national meter board key, known as an NMB key, to access the switch room)

Sometimes in strata buildings it is difficult for meter readers to get access to the meter room. It may require the meter reader to enter through a security door, walk through some fire corridors, enter a pin code into a secure lock-box, get a key for the meter room out and then enter the meter room.

In this particular case, there was no access issue for the meter reader.

However, few apartment residents or strata managers realise that energy retailers aren’t actually responsible for meter reads. The grid provider, such as Ausgrid or Energex needs to take care of that. The grid provider then sends the data to the apartment resident’s energy retailer. If no meter read is taken, the energy retailer uses a formula to predict the amount of energy consumed by the resident.

The next call for the Owner was to Energy Australia, where Energy Australia requested the resident to go and take their own meter read. This required pressing buttons on the meter to get different readings, taking photos and then attaching these photos to an email to send to Energy Australia. This is not ideal from a safety perspective for Owners in apartment buildings.

After sending through the photos, the owner was re-issued a bill of $200.

The Owner in this case wanted some compensation for the effort involved in doing a manual meter read.

Using Energy Australia’s very slow webchat service, the Owner was able to secure a $10 credit. However, the webchat channel dropped out and when reconnecting to a new webchat session, the new Energy Australia webchat operator had no record of the earlier webchat. This time the Owner requested a larger credit and was offered $50 credit for the manual meter read.

In 2018, perhaps its time for smart meters to be rolled out universally.​

This article was contributed by Brent Clark, Strata Energy News .

Leave a Reply

  1. John Toplis

    I live in a strata complex in Queensland. Just recently there were problems with the hot water meter within the unit and along with some other owners, the meter was changed with the Body Corporate paying the cost. Last week, a fault occurred in our electrity meter within the unit, it exploded and blew the door off the box ! An electrician removed the meter which was completely burnt out. The Strata Manager has said this my problem and not the BC’s. Why should this be treated differently to the problem with the hot water meter ?

  2. Grant Mifsud

    Hi John, I can see why this decision may be puzzling as the scenarios you have mentioned seem quite similar. The specific circumstances for each need to be considered though to determine who is responsible for the costs and a guide to follow on this with the legislative references can be found here:

    There is a further article published on utility infrastructure which goes into more detail about this topic here: which may be worth posting your specific circumstances within for the author to respond if clarity is still needed. Hope this helps and all the best.

  3. Brent Clark

    Hi John,

    In Australia electricity is regulated and the relationship between an electricity meter is between the resident (tenant or owner occupier) and the energy retailer. Originally, the meters would have been owned by the grid provider (e.g. Energex) but the ownership of meters is gradually transitioning to the energy retailers as the old meters are swapped out and new meters are installed.

    Hot water is not regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). Hot water plant and equipment including hot water meters are generally owned by the body corporate.

    This is why a problem with a hot water meter is generally handled by the body corporate and an individual electricity meter is the responsibility of the resident. However, if the meterboard holding the electricity meter is in need of repair or replacement, then that would generally be the responsibility of the body corporate.

  4. Tony Wehlow

    Hi Grant Mifsud,

    If this forum is still active, I would like to ask who is responsible for the electricity meter in a residential complex. The meters are located on common property. If a meter reading appears to be faulty, whose responsibility is it to test the meter and, if faulty, replace the meter. The complex has a company that “provides and bills for electricity use”.

    1. ARC Utilities Management

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your question.

      There are a few different scenarios that can be setup in Body Corporate and I have listed them below:

      1. Embedded Network Model: This is when all the meters in the property are owned by the Body Corporate. You can often tell if you are in an embedded network as the Body Corporates name and ABN will appear on the top of the invoice. If this sounds like your scenario then the Body Corporate is responsible for maintaining and testing meters within the embedded network.
      2. Retail Model: This occurs when a retailer owns all of the meters (Or sometimes different retailers own different meters within the scheme). This is common with retailers such as AGL, Origin and LPE. If this sounds like your scenario you will need to contact your retailer to have the meter checked and tested.

      ARC Utilities Management is a Gold Coast based Utilities Administration company that services Body Corporates from the Gold Coast up to Port Douglas. I would be happy to organsie some time to explain what we do and how we can assist with your Body Corporate.

      Thanks, Adam

  5. Mia Evans

    Thanks for helping me understand that the providers for Ausgrid or Energex subdivisions would have to take care of the matter regarding meter reads. It would help us understand more regarding choosing this option if we can talk to professional electricians. We need to make a decision before we even buy a property, and we want something that would be the most reasonable and cost-effective as well.