Billing and reading meters
Distributors are responsible for reading meters and sending the data to the retailer, who manages a customer's account and issues bills. They are also responsible for testing and replacing faulty meters.
Right to enter property
According to the Electricity Supply Act 1995 (Section 55) and Gas Supply Act 1996 (Section 56) a provider has the right to enter a customer's property to read the meter without prior notice or consent.
Estimated and actual reads (energy providers)
The electricity, gas or water distributor for the area is responsible for reading the meter and sending the meter data to the retailer. If the meter reader is not able to access the meter (e.g. due to a locked gate, or a dog in the yard), the distributor will provide the retailer with an ‘estimated’ read, usually based on the customer’s past usage.
According to the National Energy Retail Rules (Clause 21), if there is no access to the meter a provider must advise the customer on the bill that the account has been estimated. When a subsequent actual read is taken, if:
an overcharge has occurred, the provider must pay this amount back; or
an undercharge has occurred, if requested by the customer, the provider must offer the customer the opportunity to pay the amount owed in instalments over a period of up to 12 months.
The rules state that the retailer should use best endeavours to ensure that there is an actual read of a meter every at least every 12 months meaning that up to nine months of bills can be estimated.
Where access is an ongoing problem, the provider may require a customer to make an appointment to provide access for a special meter read. A special meter reading fee may be charged in these circumstances (see Miscellaneous Fees).
For the legislation on estimated bills see National Energy Retail Rules (Clause 21).
Failure to provide access
Ultimately the provider has the authority to discontinue supplying premises where there is a failure to provide this access.
After a customer receives an account based on an estimated reading, a retailer may agree to accept a customer’s reading of their own meter. This will be considered an estimated read.
Special meter reading fee
If a customer is concerned that their bill is high because their meter reading is incorrect, they can ask their retailer for a special meter read. The retailer is able to charge the customer a special meter reading fee for this.
According to legislation, “a bill must be issued by a provider to a small retail customer under a customer supply contract at least once every 3 months”. For customers on a negotiated contract, the frequency of their bills will depend on the terms and conditions of their contract.
For water customers, the frequency of bills will be specified in their customer contract.
According to the electricity and gas regulations where a provider has undercharged a small retailer customer, there is a limit of nine months within which they can recover an amount payable. For example, a provider may issue a backbill covering a two year period, however, they are only able to recover charges for the 9 months prior to the date of issue of the bill. However, if you don’t allow access to the meter and you receive a catch up bill, there is no limit on the length of time the retailer can backbill you.
Customers who have received an electricity or gas backbill are entitled to a payment extension equivalent to the period of time covered by the backbill. This extension is not automatically provided by a provider, but the extension must be provided if requested by the customer.
A retailer is also obliged to provide up to two years of historical billing data at no charge. If the data requested is older than two years, the retailer is allowed to charge the customer for the reasonable costs of obtaining and supplying copies of bills.
There are a number of companies who are authorised by the AER to retail electricity and gas to customers in NSW. In marketing their services, all retailers (including their sales representatives) are bound by the National Energy Retail Rules and the Australian Consumer Law.
Marketers can approach customers by telephone or door-to-door. However, when they approach a customer, an energy marketer must:
- produce a photo identity card which states their full name and who they work for
- tell you the reason for their visit or phone call
- tell you about the ten day cooling-off period which allows you to cancel the contract if you change your mind
- explain any fees or charges, including early termination fees
- tell you the start date and duration of the contract
- provide you with the written terms and conditions before asking you to sign a contract
- leave your home immediately or end the phone call when you ask them to.
They must not:
- approach a customer who has a ‘Do Not Knock’ sticker displayed at the property
- engage in misleading or deceptive conduct
- contact you outside the hours of 9am to 6pm weekdays, 9am to 5pm Saturday, or any time on a Sunday or public holiday
- contact you again within 30 days of you saying you don’t want a contract
- contact you again for two years if you ask to be put on their ‘not to be contacted’ list.
If you do not wish to be contacted by telemarketers, you can arrange for your phone number to be placed on a ‘Do not Call’ register. Information regarding the register can be obtained by calling 1300 792 958 or at www.donotcall.gov.au.
Further information regarding door to door marketing and obtaining a ‘Do Not Knock’ sticker can be obtained by visiting the Do Not Knock website. .
If you consider that an energy marketer has breached these requirements, contact the retailer they represent to advise them of the breach. If you are not satisfied with the retailer's response, you can lodge a complaint with EWON.
For more information on what to ask a marketer, see our Switching Retailers section.
What is a miscellaneous charge?
Miscellaneous charges are the fees providers charge customers for a range of services additional to the normal supply of their energy, gas or water.
Fees for miscellaneous services provided by electricity and gas networks are regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator, e.g. meter tests.
Fees for miscellaneous services relevant to electricity and gas retailers are regulated by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), e.g. late payment fees.
EWON does not set the fees charged by electricity, gas and water companies. EWON can only investigate whether your provider has applied a fee correctly.
When will you be charged?
Some fees will be charged automatically when a particular situation arises, e.g. a late payment fee on an overdue or unpaid amount, or a disconnection fee.
Other fees are for services that the customer may request – e.g. a special meter read or a meter test fee – and your provider should advise you the amount of the charge in advance. If the special meter read shows an earlier read was incorrect or the meter test shows the meter is faulty, the fee will be refunded to you.
Some market contracts provide that supply to the premises will be disconnected if the customer moves out during the term of the contract. In this case you may be charged a disconnection fee when you close your account on move out.
How much will you be charged?
The information below includes the most common miscellaneous fees for electricity customers on standard contracts as at 1 July 2016.
GST is payable on all miscellaneous fees.
The fees for gas and water customers vary with each retailer. Contact your retailer directly if you require more information.
The fees below may be different if you have signed a market contract with an energy provider. Details on miscellaneous charges will be specified in your contract.
Miscellaneous service charges for customers on standard contracts as at 1 July 2016
Ausgrid (inc GST)
Endeavour Energy (inc GST)
Essential Energy (inc GST)
Special meter reading
Meter test (if found to be working correctly)
1. no disconnection (site visit only)
2. disconnection at meter box
3. pole top or pillar box disconnection (site visit)
4. pole top or pillar box disconnection (complete)
Reconnection outside business hours
Rectification of illegal connection
$193.80 - $254.39 per hour, plus materials and GST
Move in/move out meter read
NOTE: Your retailer may charge a late payment fee, a credit card processing fee or a dishonoured cheque fee. These fees can vary between retailers.
Personal information is information which identifies an individual or makes the individual reasonably identifiable, such as your name, address or account number. This Act controls the way providers collect, use and give out information about you. It also means that you can access information providers keep about you, and have the opportunity to correct any errors. The Privacy Act includes the National Privacy Principles, which cover:
- collection of personal information
- use and disclosure of personal information
- accuracy of personal information
- access to personal information
- correction of errors in personal information
- dealing with sensitive personal information
Retailer of last resort
If a retailer ceases operation then arrangements known as Retailer of Last Resort (RoLR) are implemented.
Affected electricity customers will automatically go onto a standard retail contract with either EnergyAustralia, or Origin Energy (the designated retailers of last resort), depending on where they live.
Affected gas customers will automatically go onto a standard retail contract with either ActewAGL, AGL, or Origin Energy, depending on where they live.
Gas customers will then be supplied at prices regulated by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal. Each of the designated retailers will make a standing offer to affected electricity customers. Standing offer rates are available on retailer websites.
RoLR arrangements were established by the NSW Government, who will work with the designated retailers and independent market operators to ensure that:
- affected customers continue to receive supply
- customers who currently receive a rebate continue to be paid the rebates
If RoLR arrangements are put in place, customers can expect to be contacted by their designated supplier about what has happened and the options available to them.
Customers can contact Service NSW on 13 77 88 for more information.
The National Energy Retail Rules prescribe what rules retailers must comply with when requesting a security deposit.
The rules surrounding security deposits may not apply if you have signed a negotiated retail contract with your provider. Information about security deposits (if charged) will be included in your contract. Security deposits are usually not required when a direct debit facility has been established with your retailer.
Residential customers who accept a payment plan offered by their Provider are not required to pay a security deposit unless they fail to pay an instalment.
A customer’s electricity or gas supply can be disconnected for non-payment of a security deposit. Re-energisation may be declined by the Provider until the security deposit is paid.
What is a security deposit?
A security deposit is an amount of money an electricity or gas provider may request when you establish a new account.
Water accounts are usually in the name of the property owner so a security deposit is not usually required. Contact your water provider for further information.
Security deposits are usually refunded once you have established a satisfactory payment history with a provider. In NSW, electricity and gas companies are required to pay interest on security deposits at the current bank bill rate.
When can it be applied?
- Household customers: a security deposit is usually only required if a new customer
- has a debt to any provider and has refused to make an arrangement to repay the debt, or
- has illegally reconnected themselves in the previous two years, or
- has initially consumed energy without opening an account with a retailer
- cannot demonstrate a good credit record with any energy provider and does not agree to an alternative payment method (for example, direct debit or Centrepay)
- an electricity or gas provider cannot levy a security deposit after agreeing to waive it at the time of connection.
- Small business customers: a security deposit can only be requested prior to connection, and only if the customer:
- does not have a good record with any energy provider, or
- is a new business, or
- has illegally reconnected themselves within the previous two years.
- has regularly paid bills after the due date.
Decision to Request a Security Deposit
When deciding whether to require a security deposit from a small residential or business customer a Provider can request the customer to provide them with:
- Permission to obtain a credit check of the credit history of the customer
- other information relating to the credit history of the customer
The Provider can consider:
- any credit history obtained as a result of the credit check
- any other available information relating to the credit history of the customer that is reasonably required for the Provider to assess the ability of the customer to meet their financial obligations under a customer retail contract
- whether a customer has provided satisfactory information to confirm their identity
How much is it?
The National Energy Retail Rules indicate that the maximum allowable amounts for security deposits is 37.5% of a customer’s estimated bills over a 12 month period, based on:
- the customer’s billing history
- the average use of energy by a comparable customer over a comparable 12 month period
Reductions and exemptions may also be available for customers receiving Centrelink benefits. Contact your electricity or gas provider for further information.
When is the deposit returned?
- Security deposits held for household customers must be repaid if all bills are paid on time for a period of one year after the payment due date of the first bill. Small business customers have to accrue two years of on-time payment, but repayment may be withheld if the Provider does not consider that the business has a satisfactory credit rating.
- Security deposits are also returned when a customer notifies their Provider that they are vacating the premises and/or request de-energisation of the site, where the security deposit, or any part of it, is not required in settlement of the final bill.
Inform your Provider about whether you prefer to have the deposit returned to you by cheque or direct deposit into your bank account.
For either (a) or (b) above, the deposit amount must be credited to your electricity or gas account, or paid to you directly, within 10 business days.
- Household customers: a security deposit is usually only required if a new customer
Electricity, gas and water providers in New South Wales must provide a specified level of service in conducting business with their customers. A summary of the standards appears below. For more detailed information, check your contract or if you are with a standard retailer, check their standard customer supply contract (a copy will be on the provider's website).
Electricity and gas providers
- Disconnection: There are rules about when an electricity or gas company can disconnect supply, see our section on Disconnection.
- Connection services: If electricity supply is not connected by a date agreed by the customer and the provider, the provider must pay the customer at least $60 for each extra day (maximum $300).
- Interruption to supply: Providers must give affected customers four days' notice of any planned interruptions to the electricity or gas supply. This does not apply if the work is unplanned or beyond the control of the provider, emergency repairs for example.
- Repairing street lights: Faulty street lights must be fixed by the date agreed to by the provider and the affected consumer. If not, the provider must pay at least $15 in compensation to the customer.
- Telephone standards: Energy providers must provide both a 24-hour emergency line, and a business-hours information line. The service must not cost more than a local call, and must give consumers an option of speaking directly with a person.
For more details see the relevant legislation:
- Electricity Supply (General) Regulation 2001
- Gas Supply (Natural Gas Retail Competition) Regulation 2001
- National Energy Retail Rules
Service standards will be detailed in the standard customer contract. Visit your provider's website for a copy of the contract.
- Electricity: Voltage in Australia is nominally supplied at - 230 Volts but occasionally may range between 207 and 262 Volts. If you believe you are being supplied with electricity outside this range, speak with your electricity supplier.
- Gas: In areas supplied by piped gas, most properties are supplied at 210kPA at the meter. If you believe you are being supplied with gas outside this standard, speak with your gas supplier.
- Water: Sydney Water supplies water at a minimum '15 metre head of pressure' unless you live in a designated low-pressure area. Hunter Water supplies all new developments with a minimum '20 metre head of pressure' unless specified. For more information contact your water supplier.
Detailed information about individual network companies' performance can be found on the NSW Department of Industry – Resources and Energy website.