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The gas bill saga

Hello friends,

This is a bit of an unusual post for me, but I just wanted to share an experience I had recently in the hope that maybe it will help someone else out.

In January this year, I received an ENORMOUS gas bill ($450 for a quarter for a one-bedroom apartment, gas only on stove and hot water) It was more than three times my previous gas bill. I called the gas company I was with who told me in no uncertain terms that there was nothing wrong with it, and that it was based on actual usage. They said it was probably that other people in my building were using more hot water and that it was being split evenly between us all.

But it made no sense. That might explain a small increase, but not a tripling. So I spoke to the building manager, and he told me that that isn’t even the way it works in our building: each apartment has an individual gas metre.

Over the coming months, I raised the issue with my gas company no less than four times, and spent over eight hours on the phone to them. There was absolutely no progress. They threatened to cut off my gas because I refused to pay a bill I knew was incorrect, and despite them raising three complaints, it was never sorted. They were threatening to send bill collectors after me. There were days when they’d call me five times but because I didn’t answer, that was totally legal. The fact I had three outstanding and unresolved complains on the bill didn’t stop them.

Finally, late last month, I called the Ombudsman. Within three days, I had someone at the company – actually based in Australia- on the case. She put a hold on any cancellation and phone calls from their recovery team, then over about three weeks, sorted the issue out.

It turned out, in some apartment complexes, there is a thing called a conversion factor. It is the number by which the gas reading is multiplied. Instead of being 0.19, which it should have been, it was around 0.65. Thus the threefold increase in my bill.

My gas provider is the default provider for my building, yet apparently nobody else had noticed or complained. So my gas company was likely getting thousands of dollars in totally unfair bills from people who weren’t paying attention or took the first answer of “it’s based on actual use, it can’t be wrong” as fact.

So I learnt two lessons from the whole saga. 1) If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions. And keep asking if the answer doesn’t make sense and 2) call the Ombudsman. They are great.

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