Time of Use meters FAQs

Since the introduction of Time of Use (TOU) meters, we have found customers asking similar questions when they raise a billing complaint. The following are some of the frequently asked questions we receive about TOU meters.

Can the company install a TOU meter or change the meter without my permission?

Yes. Distributors can determine the type of metering they install at the points of supply for electricity customers within their franchise area. This right is legislated in Section 29 of the Electricity Supply Act 1995. However, as meter installation involves switching off a customer’s supply, the distributor is required to provide advance notice to a customer of their intention to install a TOU (or any new) meter.

If I have a TOU meter installed, will my bills be cheaper?

TOU meters enable the retailer to offer a range of tariffs at different time periods: peak, shoulder and off-peak. The tariff for the peak period, which is typically from 2 to 8pm, is considerably higher than the other times, so if you can adjust your energy usage to use appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers outside this period, you can make savings. For hot water usage, savings can be made if you have either a controlled load off-peak system, or a gas hot water service, as other electric systems will use energy during the peak period.

Why do my bills show the previous reading on my meter as zero? Is it legal for a retailer to do this?

Your bills will now show your total electricity usage since the last bill, divided into the peak, off-peak and shoulder time bands selected by your retailer. They no longer show the cumulative start and end readings. This practice is considered compliant with the current Regulations, but EWON has expressed concern to retailers that the lack of cumulative reads does not enable customers to easily check the accuracy of the meter readings on their bills.

My bill showed an estimated read. Isn’t a TOU meter read remotely? Why was the bill estimated?

The typical TOU meter used in a residential property cannot be read remotely and an actual read requires physical access to the meter. TOU meters are generally read using a hand-held device containing a wired ‘probe’ that is inserted into the front of the meter and enables data to be downloaded. The data is then uploaded into the meter agent’s database, where it is formatted according to dates and times (eg daylight saving). The meter agent then sends the meter data to the retailer’s billing database, where it is used to generate a bill. If the meter reader cannot gain access for an actual read, an estimated bill will be issued. However, when the meter is next read, the process will capture the data previously not downloaded, and this will be included in the next bill.

If the TOU meter captures large amounts of data, why doesn’t my bill show a detailed breakdown of my usage?

Some customers have complained that despite the TOU meter at their supply address capturing usage at half-hourly intervals, their bill contains insufficient information about the breakdown of when they used power during the quarter.

We have raised this issue with retailers who have responded that if they were to include the usage for every half hour across a typical 90-day billing period, a bill would typically run for dozens of pages and most customers would not benefit from receiving that level of detail in their billing. Instead, they provide the totals used for each time band that quarter, and also provide comparative graphs so you can track your usage over a number of periods.

Customers who require more detailed information can raise this issue with their retailer and if they are not satisfied with the response, they can contact EWON to lodge a billing complaint.

Will the company install an in-house display with the TOU meter?

In-house display units can provide customers with real-time information about how much electricity they are using and how much it is costing. In the past some electricity distribution network operators have provided in-house displays to customers when trialling TOUmeters. As a general rule however, if your meter is changed to a TOU meter, you will not receive an in-house display. In the future, customers may have the option of installing their own in-house display, however they will need to meet the costs of purchasing and installing the device.

I wanted to change retailers, but I was refused an energy contract because I had a TOU meter. Can they do this?

Yes, a retailer can refuse to offer a customer a negotiated contract for electricity supply. There are some retailers whose billing systems are not compatible with TOU data and they may refuse a contract on this basis. (Currently all customers in NSW are guaranteed electricity supply from the default supplier for their area under a standard form contract.)

Some customers have also incurred termination fees when they have had to cancel a negotiated contract after their meter was changed.

If you are unable to resolve a problem with your negotiated contract, contact EWON.

Examples of customer complaints 

Following are some examples of the complaints EWON has received about TOU meters. EWON reports on customer complaints to stakeholders, including energy retailers, the regulator and government.

Joe: “Why can’t I read the meter?”

Joe had a TOU meter installed at his property by the electricity distributor in his area. He asked his retailer how he could read the TOU meter, given he could read the previous meter. The retailer explained to Joe that he wouldn’t be able to read the TOU meter.

Joe complained to EWON that he felt it was unfair that as a customer, he didn’t have the same access to his usage information as before.

Carla: “It’s not family friendly”

Carla switched to a new retailer however when she hadn’t received a bill for a while, she contacted them to find out why. The retailer apologised for the delay and explained they had difficulties reading the TOU meter at her property, but they would issue a bill shortly.

When she received her bill Carla was shocked at the amount and asked her retailer to explain the charges. The retailer told Carla they would do an investigation and get back to her. In the meantime, they advised her to run her appliances during offpeak hours to help reduce the costs.

Several months passed and Carla didn’t hear back from the retailer, so she called EWON for advice. Carla complained that she felt the TOU meter wasn’t family friendly. She said she found herself staying up late to do the washing and housework, which didn’t fit with her casual work.

We referred Carla to a senior manager at the retailer who agreed to follow up the delay in their investigation and invited Carla to contact EWON again if necessary.

Martin: “Where is the detailed information about my usage?”

Martin’s meter was changed to a TOU meter and he contacted his retailer to find out more about the new billing system.

Martin was told his quarterly bill would show bulk usage figures, but he wanted a more detailed breakdown of his usage. The retailer referred him to a metering technician in their company, who advised Martin that the TOU meter collected daily information however this was not provided to customers.

Martin complained to EWON that he felt the retailer was being unhelpful, as they were unable to provide adequate information to help him review his usage. He complained he had also found it difficult to get a competitive quote for a new contract because other retailers did not support TOU billing.

 


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