Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The gravitas of gravity

How honest am I? This puts me to test and I fail. I justify my failure by that this is about multi national companies and who knows who owns them. They really ought to get their metering and billing processes right. 

In a 22 storey building such as ours, there needs to be water tempering valve every sixth level. This is about the force of gravity. Water comes from roof storage and the further it runs down the building, the higher the water pressure. This is managed by the tempering valves. Our building is over twenty five years old and the tempering valves needed to be replaced. This was done a couple of years ago.

We pay for our building's hot water delivery to our apartment and the gas to heat the water is measured by a hot water meter. So, it is a gas bill we pay. It was usually somewhere between $80 and $100 for two months. 

When the tempering valves were replaced, we received an email for the gas company stating we had been overcharged for out hot water gas and would receive a credit. Our next bill came indicating we were $20 in credit and there was nothing to pay. Over I guess the past two years at least, every gas hot water bill had indicated we were in credit. Sometimes the credit goes up to $22. The last had us in credit for $18. We've paid nothing for hot water for over two years. Shouldn't I be an honest person and inform the company? The company's processes are clearly deficient and I see no reason to inform it. 

Well, it just gets better. 

Our electric bill arrived, same company. It hasn't been a hot summer and our air con usage hasn't been high. I expected the bill would be on the low side, and it was, $266 for three months. This does include a discount because R is an old age pensioner. Our worst bill was probably about $600, many years ago. While I don't like companies automatically taking money from my bank account, I agreed to this with our electric bill to get a good deal. 

I received a reminder email reminder that on the 23rd of this month, the amount to pay would be deducted from my bank account, which is as it should be, but the amount to be deducted was $141 and not $266. Come the 23rd, $141 was deducted from my account. I had to go back to adjust our simple ledger for $125 less outgoing. This was a clear undercharge but it is the same again. If the company can't get it system right, not my problem and I will pay what they say I owe unless I suspect overcharging. 

While it was a few years ago my Mother knew she wasn't paying for her power for a bit over twelve months and it wasn't her fault. It is complicated to explain why, so I won't but she didn't receive electric bills. Eventually they caught up with non billing and Best and Number One Son took a look at the matter. Utility companies can only go back twelve months for undercharging. Nevertheless, she had a substantial bill to pay. She went down the road of 'I am just an old age pensioner. You've caused me so much stress. How am I going to pay that huge amount? I am worried sick about the whole matter. I'm trembling so much I can hardly hold the phone'. My mother was uninterested about the world beyond her couple of friends and family but she knew how to manipulate situations. 

I think one third of the bill was waived and the rest she paid off over two years. 

So I know the worst that can happen is we will have to back pay one year's worth of charges we should have been charged. Long may the company get our electric bill wrong and we have become very used to not paying for our hot water heating.

30 comments:

  1. This sounds very dodgy. Who has ever heard of household services (gas, water, electricity etc) being wrongly billed, month after month? I would have all service bills sent directly to my accountant and not paid until he/she is satisfied with the companies' honesty.

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    1. Hels, you can be sure if we were overcharged, they would know about it. It is not about their honesty though. It is the companies' incompetence.

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  2. Ha! Here it is more usual to be overcharged and then have to fight to try to reclaim the excess before the company goes bust.

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    1. JayCee, that is a problem at times but not with gas, water and electric. The government would bail them out somehow.

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  3. In his last flat, my son had a dual meter with 2 levels of charge, one for overnight and one for daytime. They were the wrong way round so he was being charge the lower overnight rate for daytime consumption. He confirmed it by taking night and day readings and checking against what the bills showed. There was no way to tell them - no appropriate link on the web site, no one answering the phone, no response to letters. He did manage to get through twice, but nothing was done and they seemed to think he was an idiot. He has now moved to a different city.

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    1. That's a shocker Tasker. I suppose he was using high power consumption appliances at night for the cheaper rate. Well, I would. In such a case, wouldn't there be some kind of ombudsman to approach? Worst case, your local government member.

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  4. I have a water bill, it doesn't mater if I'm using cold or water hot. My home has it own hot water tank.

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    1. Dora, yes. Even some large apartment buildings, residents have their own water heating, but we don't.

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  5. I avoid apartments for investment. Mum bought an apartment that took 8 years to resolve the cladding issue. Then water pipe leak issue that no one is willing to be responsible for. It took 10 years to get it fixed. The worst is the stupid body corporate company that just specialises in collecting vendor's money for doing absolutely jack shxt!

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    1. Roentare, generally high rise apartments aren't a good investment. Our building had to have a minor amount of flammable cladding removed at great cost. Our body corporate company is not bad but I understand your point.

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  6. Be glad you don't live in SA. Our gas and electric prices (along with just about everything else) are double what you pay. It doesn't make sense to me that there isn't a national price set so all states pay the same. The only thing that runs 24/7 in my tiny flat is the fridge, yet my bill is far more than yours. I thought I was receiving age concessions, but maybe I haven't been. I will check immediately.

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    1. River, certainly for electric with all states except for WA connected to each other. I am fairly sure the final figure is wrong. The first figure of $266 seems right. For the billing period, we barely used heating or cooling.

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  7. Well that's one for the books Andrew. If that was me in the same situation as you I'd put money away to pay the difference to what the bill should be to what it was, if that makes sense, and then if you were to get a big bill for back fees, you have the money to pay.
    It's not your fault if you don't get a bill, but at the same time if they discover it within those 12 months you are done for.

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    1. Margaret, that is exactly what we told Mother to do about her non existent electric bill, but she didn't. Fortunately we can afford to pay without putting money away. As you mention the companies can only go back one year, so we have an idea of what should have been paid and after one year, nothing earlier can be recovered.

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  8. It is a bit scary knowing that you are not receiving the correct bill though. We take readings on the large meter and check every month, no Smart meter yet, there seems to be something controversial about them.

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    1. Thelma, you are wise to check meter readings. As you can note from our case, they can be very wrong. We have smart meters but not so smart automated billing processes.

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  9. Odds are if you called, they wouldn't answer the phone, and if they did they would do nothing about it.

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    1. TP, back in the times of paper bills, we received a final warning for not paying our normal water bill. I called the authority and the nice lady said, yes I can see you have always paid on time. We do have issues at time with mail between your and the building next door being wrongly delivered. If you just pay the bill as soon as is convenient and I'll remove the final warning flag from your account. I'd like to think that would happen now, but I don't have much confidence.

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  10. It is the same with grocery stores if the price goes through at a lower price than what it should be I never say a word since it all evens out when they charge too much for something. The utility guys here would catch their own mistake eventually and send the big bill.

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    1. I agree Pat, and I think we are overcharged more often than we realise. A small shop with a a pleasant owner is quite different.

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  11. You are very lucky!!! I wish they'd start making mistakes on my electric and water.

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    1. Strayer, it certainly has been a saving, and now the electric too.

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  12. How strange! As "Travel" said above, even if you wanted to report these problems, I bet you'd have a terrible time doing it.

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    1. Steve, I really don't if it would be a bother. Maybe you can do it online.

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  13. "How honest am I? This puts me to test and I fail. I justify my failure by that this is about multi national companies and who knows who owns them. They really ought to get their metering and billing processes right."

    After reading everything that followed, I'm convinced your justification is more than justified.

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  14. My comment seems to have disappeared but I would have done the same as you and waited until I got a bill.

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    1. Pat, I don't remember that it has happened to you before, but your comment went to the spam folder.

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  15. Wow! We've only ever encountered the opposite from utility companies. I'm grateful my husband keeps track of these things. Best wishes!

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    1. Darla, you can never take these things for granted.

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