Billing Rules for Energy Retailers Operating in NECF

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Energy retailers must follow strict rules when issuing bills to their customers. These rules aim to ensure customers receive accurate and understandable bills, while also receiving prompt and fair adjustments when billing errors occur. The key billing rules relate to:

Basis for Bills

Retailers must base customer bills on actual meter readings or metering data provided by the metering coordinator, in accordance with the metering rules. Where actual data is not available, retailers may issue estimated bills but must take reasonable steps to obtain actual readings at least once every 12 months. Estimated bills must be based on the customer’s past usage or comparable customer data. When actual data becomes available, adjustments must be made promptly to address any undercharging or overcharging.

Customers can request an adjusted bill based on their own meter read, known as a customer read estimate. If the retailer receives this before the bill’s due date and it meets guidance requirements, an adjusted bill must be promptly provided. If the retailer rejects the request, it must explain the reasons and outline how the customer can dispute this through the retailer’s complaints process or the ombudsman.

Estimate Bills

Estimated bills are issued when actual meter readings are not available. While unavoidable at times, estimated bills can cause issues if inaccurate. The key points around estimated bills are:

  • Retailers must take reasonable steps to obtain actual readings at least once every 12 months. This ensures estimated bills are only used temporarily.
  • Estimated bills must be based on the customer’s past usage or comparable customer data to ensure they are as accurate as possible.
  • When actual meter readings become available, retailers must promptly make adjustments to address any undercharging or overcharging due to the prior estimates. They must offer affected customers reasonable time to pay any amounts owing.
  • Customers can request an adjusted bill based on their own meter read, known as a customer read estimate. If the retailer receives this before the bill’s due date and it meets guidance requirements, an adjusted bill must be promptly provided.
  • The retailer may reject a customer read estimate only if it was received after the due date or does not meet the retailer’s specified guidance. In this case, the retailer must explain the reasons and outline the customer’s dispute options.

Bill Adjustments

When undercharging or overcharging occurs, retailers must act promptly to address this and limit any recovery to amounts in the past 9 months (unless caused by the customer). Customers can request the undercharged amount be paid back through an instalment plan of up to 12 months. Refunds of overcharged amounts above $50 must be made promptly and without interest.

Complaints about bills

Complaints processes are a key part of the customer experience and retailer accountability. They provide a mechanism for customers to have billing issues or disputes resolved fairly and transparently.

The key aspects of complaints processes relating to billing rules are:

  • Retailers must have a standard complaints and dispute resolution procedure, including defined timeframes. This gives customers clarity on how to make a complaint and how long it should take to resolve.
  • Customers can request a review of their bill through the retailer’s complaints process. The retailer must then conduct the review in accordance with their complaints procedure and notify the customer of the outcome.
  • If a customer requests a meter check or test as part of the review, the retailer must arrange this. However, the customer may be required to pay if the test shows the meter was not faulty.
  • After conducting a bill review, if the retailer finds the bill was incorrect they must promptly adjust the bill as required.
  • The retailer must inform customers that they can lodge a dispute with the energy ombudsman if they are not satisfied with the retailer’s decision after following the complaints process. The ombudsman acts as an independent dispute resolution body.
  • Retailers must set out a process under their complaints procedure for customers to attempt to rectify customer read estimates that have been rejected.

Overall, complaints processes provide a structured means for billing issues and disputes to be raised, investigated and resolved. They help ensure customers are treated fairly and that any billing errors are identified and addressed. Together with the other billing rules, complaints processes aim to deliver a high standard of transparency, accuracy and fairness for energy customers.

Clear communication about the availability and steps of the complaints process helps build customer trust that issues will be handled appropriately. Retailers must promote their complaints processes proactively so customers are aware of their options.

Other Billing Requirements

Other rules require retailers to: issue bills at least every 100 days unless otherwise agreed; show amounts billed for non-energy goods/services separately; offer a range of payment methods including direct debit (with the customer’s consent); accept payments in advance; provide two years of historical billing data upon request; and review disputed bills within set timeframes.

Strict penalties apply for non-compliance with the billing rules. The rules aim to ensure customers receive clear and correct bills while being treated fairly where errors do occur. By enforcing minimum standards, the rules protect customers from poor billing practices and help build trust in the retail energy market.

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