In June 2015, Ms V. moved out of her flat and received her final bill for her electricity and gas consumption a couple of days later. She was shocked to see a payable amount of more than € 6,000. The bill claimed that she had consumed 52,150 kWh gas and 8,247 kWh electricity since her last annual bill in January 2015. If true, this would have been tenfold her gas consumption during previous periods, and eightfold her electricity use. She had previously consumed about 10,000 kWh gas and approximately 2,000 kWh electricity.
Ms V. was lost as to how she should have consumed so much more energy. Her enquiry with the system operator did not yield a plausible explanation, and so she contacted E-Control’s dispute settlement service. We asked the system operator for consumption numbers over the past five years. This revealed that Ms V.’s consumption had been estimated but never actually read during this time. Estimations had been too low. When Ms V. moved out, her meters were actually read for the first time. These readings showed that she had in fact consumed much more than the estimated 10,000 kWh gas and 2,000 electricity. Now, the company wanted to bill her for the difference between the low estimations and her actual consumption. The system operator stated that meters had not been read previously because they were not accessible.
We suggested to the system operator that they apply a three-year limit for retroactive billing and to correct Ms V.’s bill accordingly. The system operator spread the total consumption during the time that Ms V. lived in the flat evenly over the entire period of time and cut the bill, asking her to pay only for the underestimated consumption during the last three years. Ms V.’s bill was reduced by about € 1,100.
How to avoid this situation: make sure that your meters are actually read, either by your system operator or yourself.
System operators must use meter readings for their annual bills. These readings can be input by you - you will have received a self-reading chart - or by the system operator. In some cases, the system operator cannot access your meter, for instance because it is inside your flat. If you are one of these cases, if the system operator has not come to read the meter and if you have not received a self-reading chart for more than one year, we suggest that you read your meter yourself and submit the reading to your operator. You can do this via e-mail or via the system operator’s website.