Energy Retailers using Estimates rather than Actual Meter Readings

This is easily done, per the below photo some dials move clockwise and others anti-clockwise. looking at the photo you might read the 1000 kilowatt number as 9 when it should be 8.


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There’s a good example to advise caution by looking at the 100’s dial. The pointer on the dual is aporoximately pointing to the 6. Should this be read as a 6 or a 5. Irrespective of the direction the only way to resolve is to look to the 10’s. If the 10’s dial is indicating a low number it is consistent with the 100’s pointer having rolled on past the 6. If the 10’s is pointing to a high number the 100’s pointer has not rolled passed the 6, hence the hundreds should be read as a 5.

If this sounds confusing these types of meters need to be read from the lowest digit to highest. Being driven by mechanical gearing there is a little play and wear in the mechanism which causes the pointers to vary in position relative to absolute.

No prize for those who can read the example reliably. Have a go!


It’s possible to misread a new digital non-smart meter too - since you have to select the correct item(s) to display (e.g. wait for it / them to cycle round).


DO NOT trust your smart meter.

I am currently in dispute with my electricity supplier regarding smart meter readings. This has been going on for approximately 6 months without a satisfactory resolution.

Firstly I note I am in NSW so interstate could be different.

My retailer has a app showing usage and I couldn’t see how the usage related to my lived experience so I queried my Retailer. Turns out the retailer’s app did show exactly what the raw data from the meter supplier showed. In my area for electricity I have a distributor, a retailer and a meter supplier. If I have an issue I and not permitted to discuss this with the meter supplier but on ly the retailer (who to give them credit do appear to be taking this up with the meter supplier).

My issue came to a head when we had a power outage due to a storm in February. The smart meter reading data said that throughout the outage we continued to use power (at 15 minute intervals) and even sent our solar power back to the grid???.

It turns out that the accumulation data from the meter is not used or read by the meter supplier and I have been unable to find out exactly what data they use. During our outage it appears the mete reader just “guesstimates” our usage and this is treated as “gospel” and no discussion or dispute may be had. So even with a smart meter your provider may be using estimates for your power.

If we had an old analogue meter we to self read and lodge our reading as only the accumulation is used BUT because we have a smart meter the accumulation is ignored and only the 15 minute readings are used even though they could be checked against the accumulation. So this leaves me with a smart meter that gives usage (and generation) readings even when I have no power and I have had to raise a dispute (months ago and still to be resolved).

The moral is, even though smart meters have a accumulation that I can read, this is ignored reading co. and only the 15min data (which I cannot get a copy of) is used, so I don’t know how the billing is generated BUT it doesn’t reflect my lived demonstrable experience.

I do note that after MANY phone call and emails my retailer does seem to be taking my concerns seriously and is now attempting to get the issue resolved but they appear to be caught between me and the meter supplier.

My advice to all is DO NOT ACCEPT your meter reading blindly. Check to ensure that it does reflect your usage, and if you are inflicted with a smart meter there is no easy (or cheap) way to ensue the data is actually correct.


It’s an accumulation meter with 5 different dials, 2 clockwise, 3 anti-clockwise. AGL claimed I had clearly misread the meter but I had photos which I emailed to them and I was right. I’m cynical that only after I queried the size of the bill that the meter magically went backwards by such a huge amount. What’s more, it took 4 calls to get this rectified, each to a different person and when I asked the question, can meters be manipulated by the energy provider not one of them would answer my question.

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Rectifying errors with estimates means you are relying on the company to handle the issue with reasonable timing and common sense. In my situation none of this happened. After a house fire in which the electricity meter was destroyed I was still sent a bill of several hundred dollars for electricity used. This was an estimate based on previous year’s usage even though the power had been disconnected after the fire. This required many phone calls to the biller explaining the impossibility of electricity usage. The biller didn’t dispute the facts but failed to adjust the bill until the ombudsman intervened. Problem solved you may think but not so fast. The next billing cycle resulted in a new bill for two billing periods. This included the amount they had tried to get out of me previously. Unbelievably stupid. This didn’t take as long to rectify but I quickly moved onto another company. Every time I see a house destroyed in flood or fire I wonder if in the middle of such calamities, customers have to deal with the sort of situation I had to deal with.


Yesterday I received an estimated gas bill from Globird energy, with an estimated MJ usage 10x that of the month before!!

When I called them they said that estimates are based on usage from the same time last year - seemed reasonable enough, until I looked at our usage from May last year which was still half the current MJ estimate.

Globird gave me directions on how to take an upload a self-read and to have the bill re-issued, and I understand that any overestimations would be corrected at the time of the next metre read, but how can they justify such a massive discrepancy? We could afford to pay it, but what about families who are already financially stretched and/or who don’t have the ability to challenge it at the time? Even if you pay the bill, they still get to hold on to your money for a few months - and you’re out of pocket during this time.

Has anyone else experienced such big difference with their estimates? Is there any work being done to advocate for greater estimate accuracy that anyone knows of?


Welcome to the community @wintertj

You’ve mentioned the distributor involved and their response. At an individual consumer level and for different parts of the country your State or Territory Govt has the consumer responsibility. It’s likely the same but different depending.

We’ve had no issues with reads over many years (NG in Brisbane). It may be useful to share which major city or region and if there is a reason for the estimate, and not a meter read used. Our bills are quarterly.

The AEMC sets the rules for the NEM.
Estimated meter reads | AEMC

Note per the rules, all consumers have a right to correct a self read and to be provided with a new bill based on the self read. The retailers have an obligation to inform consumers of that right. Which may answer,

If an issue cannot be resolved with the retailer,

  • NSW: Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (1800 246 545)
  • VIC: Energy & Water Ombudsman Victoria (1800 500 509)
  • QLD: Energy & Water Ombudsman Queensland (1800 662 837)
  • SA: Energy & Water Ombudsman South Australia (1800 665 565)
  • ACT: ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (02 6207 1740)
  • TAS: Energy Ombudsman Tasmania (800 001 170)

Just an update on this - after uploading a manual metre read, our gas bill was reissued.

Initial bill (estimate): $77.45
New bill based on self-metre read: $17.71

Although reading and reporting of the actual metre read online was straightforward enough, I find it crazy that companies can get away with incredibly inflated and seemingly baseless estimates.

I would definitely recommend customers get into the habit of regularly checking and adjusting any estimated bills to avoid handing over unnecessary cash in between actual metre reads.


Be aware this does NOT apply if you have a “smart” meter.


My relatively new gas supplier, Globird, invoices monthly while the meter is read bi-monthly. Every second bill is an estimate. The first estimate is 0.8% low, so not too bad an estimate.


My reading was accurate. The only reason they reversed the bill was as I have photos to prove it.

I agree, they stubbornly refused to accept that I was right. It was only resolved on my 4th call when the consultant asked to see the photos of each meter read with I uploaded to the link she sent me. The $600 charge was immediately reversed. If I hadn’t squawked with determination and 4 calls they’d have kept the money.

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