How To Avoid Getting Overcharged On Your Power Bill

Date Jan 22, 2021
Blog category Power
By Staff Writer

Have you ever looked at your power bill, and wondered — what the heck did I do to get charged this much? The thing is, it’s not only you!

Some New Zealanders are also getting overcharged for a variety of reasons such as faulty meters, invalid billing, incorrect rates, and more! If this ever happens to you, what can you actually do? How can you avoid getting overcharged on your power bill?

Here’s what you need to do to avoid overcharging on your power bill.

How to know if you’re overcharged

Of course, the way you’ll get overcharged varies per household. However, there are usually indicators to know if you’re getting overcharged on your power bill. Here are the most common signs to watch out for.

Discrepancies in your power bill

This is the most common indicator to know if you’re overcharged. It takes just one simple look at your power bill to determine this.

For example, your regular monthly power bill only costs about $150-$180. If it reaches to about $200-$300 per month, you may have to recheck on your usage. It can be affected by several factors such as visitors in your family as well as prolonged use of electronics.

Irregular meter readings

Most power companies register and record your power usage through your meter, which can be either smart or analogue.

While overcharging by power meter is rare, it can still happen from time to time. If your meter still moves even without using any appliance, it’s usually an indicator of a faulty meter. Otherwise, an error message on your smart meter can also be an indicator.

No changes in your power bill despite the upgrades

Have you upgraded to energy-saving appliances, but have not experienced any significant changes in your power bill? 

If this is the case, there may be something wrong with your meter! Or, there may be some things you don’t understand about how your power bill is calculated. It’s important to check all factors that affect your power bill to find the accurate cause of your high power bill.

What are your rights against overcharging?

If you found out and proved that your power provider is overcharging you, what can you actually do? What rights protect you against this? Here’s an overview.

Read: Consumer Rights: Your Guide Against Misleading Prices And Advertising

Insist on not paying the excess

If your power provider can’t give any explanation as to how your bill is higher than usual, you can insist on not paying the extra amount. You have the right to refuse to pay for the excess, especially if it’s not indicated in your contract.

Whether you get a verbal or written quote, it works the same. You can choose not to pay for the extra amount if there’s no legal explanations about your charges.

Negotiate with your provider

If your provider has given you an acceptable explanation, you can always negotiate with your provider. This is especially true if the fault happens to be their responsibility. Here’s a common example.

Your provider has been undercharging you for the past six months. In the seventh month, your power bill has ballooned. They explained this well, and you understood their reason. You can negotiate to pay it in instalments to make payments more manageable.

Complain to Utilities Dispute

If your power provider refuses to negotiate with you and has not given you acceptable reasons, take it to Utilities Dispute. As all providers are a member of this organisation, they can help you resolve issues with your provider.

Filing for a dispute is free of charge. Once approved, you can claim up to $50,000. For bigger claims, you can take it to the District Court.

What you can do to avoid overcharging

If you believe you’re charged beyond your power usage, take immediate action! Don’t settle for overcharging, and make sure you pay only what’s right for you. Here are some of the best ways to avoid overcharging.

Always check your meters

One of the most common ways you get overcharged is through your meters! It’s not always because they’re faulty, but because they can be easily affected by a lot of several factors. This includes weak signals on your meters and glitches in your provider’s receiver.

Here’s how you can check your meter depending on type.

  • For analogue readers - Always submit your meter readings. If you don’t submit yours by the billing period, providers usually depend on your past readings. Or, the provider may collect your readings per month, but it still varies per company.
  • For smart readers - They usually send your data automatically. However, you may need to recheck if it sends your reading accurately. Otherwise, you may put yourself in a financial predicament later on.

Understand how your meter reading works

According to Utilities Disputes, about 70-80% of complaints are made because they don’t know how their meter reading works. They complain about other things, but the main cause of their problem is ultimately not understanding their meter reading.

Before complaining about your meter reading and power bill, it’s essential to know how your power plan works. 

Know the latest price updates of your provider

Your power provider usually lets you know whenever they raise prices. If you aren’t informed of any increase, you may want to consult your power provider about this. You may want to enquire about your billing too.

Although it happens very unlikely,  your provider may also charge you the wrong price or give you an incorrect billing statement. There’s no harm in asking, so feel free to clarify any question you may have.

Read your contract terms thoroughly

To prevent further charges in your power bill, read your contract thoroughly. There may be fees indicated in your contract that you may not be aware of. You need to especially read the fine print to understand the terms better.

Before signing your contract, recheck the following:

  • The duration of your contract
  • Breaking or termination fees
  • Available payment methods
  • Perks and extras of your plan
  • Pricing plans for your lifestyle

Talk it out with your power provider

Sometimes, all it takes is a quick chat with your provider. If you see any hidden charge or feel that your meter reading is incorrect, don’t hesitate to talk to them. Most providers have customer support that can help you.

Shop around and switch power providers

If you’re out of options, switch providers! Instead of staying in a power plan that always overcharges you, choose the plan that matches your needs and financial situation. Shop around and get the best power plan from a trusted provider in New Zealand.

Compare your best options and purchase the best power plan using CompareBear’s comparison tool.