Beware exploitative estimates on AGL gas bills

Our gas bill for the quarter ending 9 May 2016 showed our gas consumption to have suddenly shot up almost three times compared to the corresponding period in 2015. From approximately 1600MJ the reported consumption went up to 4700MJ despite the fact that we had been travelling a lot in the period concerned.

I telephoned AGL and found out that bill was based on an estimate, not meter reading. Apparently the gas distributor in this area had not been providing meter readings for this period and so AGL simply issued bills based on the average household consumption in the suburb, not our consumption profile.

I provided my meter reading immediately and the bill was revised a couple of days later. The true consumption turned out to be only 1005MJ, far below our past averages.

Like electricity supply, which employs a common network of poles and wires by third party distributors, the gas supply system also employs a common network of piping, with each supplier delivering its products to the households contracted to them via these networks through meters installed and read by the distributors. Billing is based on the distributors’ readings. When the readings are not provided, the power and gas companies use estimates.

Our neighbourhood is probably full of high gas consumers, including restaurants, for the average consumption to be so much. Obviously AGL prefers to overcharge than undercharge its customers, deliberately ignoring each
customer’s own consumption profile.

AGL might argue that the actual consumption figure would have corrected itself on the next bill once meter readings were again provided by the distributors, but what if this had happened to a poor pensioner on a very tight budget and couldn’t pay the first, bloated, bill?

Something ought to be done about such opportunistic, exploitative behavior.

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Hi @kcw151thank you for telling us about this one!

For those who get in a tight spot when paying providers, CHOICE has a great article with some advice about your rights and your options: https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/consumer-rights-and-advice/your-rights/articles/help-paying-power-and-water-bills

AGL and every other utility provider should be able to estimate use/bills based on each customer’s prior year consumption, so what they are doing is clearly lazy at best and the more cynical of us could think they are after the monetary float between bills. As usual when it goes wrong, the onus is on the customer to just pay or to get it sorted.

For electricity, many of us were forced to pay for smart electric meter upgrades that were touted as providing all sorts of advantages, one being they would wirelessly report consumption and would never have to be manually read. Every advantage presented enhanced supplier profitability with nothing in it for the consumer, but that is another topic. Years later these expensive white elephants are still being read like the cheap and simple mechanical ones they replaced.

The estimated bills I receive from AGL have no honest reality based on previous proven gas usage, I have had an issue with AGL over many years, What is not their fault is that my gas meter is not generally accessible to the meter reader, despite my offer to allow them to relocate it. Currently the projected next meter read is within a week time span so it is unrealistic for me to be available over that period of time for a meter reader to come.
The bills I have received are wildly excessive over what they know and have as actual meter reads and proven gas usage. When I have challenged the figures estimated, I have been given a candid reason. That is the estimated reading is deliberately excessive designed to generate a customer response.
Complaints to the Energy Ombudsman about more substantial matters, but mentioning this issue have not resulted in any improvement.

A decade ago I had AGL gas when they were the area supplier not just the retailer. One year they sent me their formal renewal offer and I tried to take it up. They refused to honour their written offer for gas because I did not also have electricity with them. The outcome is that I moved on so AGL need not “worry” about my gas (or electricity) account ever again. Most but not all of us have options…

Interesting reviews on gas pricing and billing. I have the same experience with AGL reference to inaccurate reading even after I had turned the gas meter off while away for an extended time. At one stage I even had the gas meter replaced and tested and of course it came back as ok even though I had supplied AGL with photos of the readings showing the before and after readings. And of course AGL did not want to know anything about it! The new meter is fine and does show the correct readings, this I test on our last trip away. If you think that there is a problem then this might be a suggestion, If you are away for a long time to take a photo of the meter reading with date stamp and turn the gas off at the meter and on return take a photo of the meter reading before you turn it on. Before you do this check any appliance that it is safe to do so. Armed with this information contact your Gas provider and good luck

Origin Energy my gas provider utilizes the same deceptive tactics. My ‘estimates’ come with the reason - ‘dog at large’
Must be a lot of dogs roaming my street.
As my gas meter is in an awkward position at the side of my house I have inquired about cost of having it moved to near the footpath for easy access - estimate $2000!
I am now considering having my gas disconnected. I loathe the Fracking, I am concerned gas costs will follow the electricity cost scam and I prefer to support companies that support sustainable energy - like Powershop.
I do love gas for cooking and love my gas ‘log fire’ but the attractions of solar panels and free power, supporting the environment…
I can’t see Origin competing with that

Beware of ransomware disguised as AGL bills. Or other bills.

Check the from address, and the links before you click on them or open them as you could find your computer data being encrypted by someone else who wants you to pay money to get the dencryption password. It’s very difficult to get your data back if you don’t pay (Got a recent backup not connected to your computer?)

there is a thread in electronics about this too.

Just got three from NAB in the last two days! Def. fakes. A bit scary to think what could happen if you are unaware!

The same happened to me. I had not paid much attention to the billing until I tried to use the government comparison website and realised that AGL’s billing makes it impossible to find actual usage from the bills. How can a household usage chart be accurate if it is based on the neighbourhood’s use? A large estimate bill based on this use when queried was reduced from $351 to $38. The bill is incredibly complicated. The whole billing procedure is opaque, deceptive and misleading and should be looked at.