Meter providers, retailers and customers

It has been three years since metering competition was opened up in NSW. Initially, complaints to EWON about digital meters were driven by installation delays following installation of rooftop solar systems. However, this type of complaint has declined over the last 12 months, which indicates that retailers have responded to the initial demand for new meters, and the new required timeframes for responding to meter installation requests are having a positive effect. 

As high bills are the main driver of complaints to EWON, it is probably no surprise that while we are seeing fewer complaints about metering delays, we are now seeing more complaints about billing errors made by metering providers. In the past, complaints to EWON about electricity bills would commonly involve metering services and data provided by the local network – which was a member of EWON. Under the power of choice reforms, the entity providing the metering services and data is not required to be a member of EWON, and therefore we cannot directly investigate a complaint about the conduct of the meter provider. However as the metering provider is an agent of and acting on behalf of the retailer, in accordance with EWON’s Charter, complaints are registered against the retailer. The following two case studies highlight how the conduct of the metering provider can impact the customer’s billing and cause a downstream complaint to EWON.

Case Studies

Meter data provider mislabels data stream 

A customer advised EWON that her electricity bills were consistently higher than expected.  Her energy retailer had installed a digital meter seven months earlier to help identify the reasons for her high electricity consumption. Following the change of electricity meter, she was notified that her off-peak electricity had been changed from the controlled load 1 (CL1) tariff to the controlled load 2 (CL2) tariff even though she had not requested this change. The customer complained about this to her retailer and her bills were subsequently cancelled and rebilled multiple times, which she found extremely confusing. 

We contacted the retailer to obtain further information. The retailer reviewed the account billing and said it appeared, based on the meter data, that the three channels on the digital meter used to record the individual data streams for domestic consumption, off peak and solar generation export, had been mislabelled. The retailer noted that it would need to request the meter data provider to correct the wrongly labelled channels before the customer’s billing could be reviewed. After further investigation, the retailer advised us that the bills issued to the customer after the installation of the digital meter were incorrect due to the mislabelling. This meant that the customer’s off-peak consumption had been billed as domestic consumption, and she had not actually been billed for domestic consumption at all. The retailer also advised us that the meter data provider had erroneously changed the customer’s off-peak tariff to CL2 at the time the digital meter was installed. The retailer noted that the customer had contacted it twice to complain about the change to the off peak tariff, however, the retailer’s staff had sent two incorrect service orders to the meter data provider and therefore the issue remained unresolved. Following our investigation, the retailer resolved the complaint by reversing the change in the customer’s off-peak tariff, correcting the labelling of the data stream channels on the customer’s digital meter, and providing a credit of $1,009.59, which included a customer service gesture for the customer’s poor experience.

Digital meter fails to record solar electricity  

A customer installed a rooftop solar system and her electricity retailer completed the installation of a digital meter one month later. She decided to transfer to a new energy retailer one month after the digital meter had been installed. The customer complained that the first bill from her new retailer did not include credits for electricity generated and exported to the grid. The new retailer investigated the billing and advised her that the digital meter had not been configured to record the solar export from her home at the time of installation. It arranged for the meter data provider to reconfigure the meter for solar export and to include the solar credits on the customer’s bills from that date. The customer complained to EWON that due to the metering error made by her previous retailer, she had missed out on solar export credits from the time the digital meter was installed. 

We contacted the customer’s previous retailer to request further information about the installation. It confirmed that the digital meter was not correctly configured to record the solar energy exported from her rooftop solar system. It offered to waive the consumption charges billed from the time the digital meter was installed, up until the customer transferred to the new retailer, and offered to provide her with a customer service gesture of $150. The customer accepted the retailer’s offer of a total credit and refund of $243 as a resolution to the complaint.