Your utility consumption is registered through meters that are hooked up to your account. This is the usage you are billed on. But what if the reading isn’t accurate? Or worse – not read at all?
There are times when utilities are unable to read your meter. It could be inaccessible. It could be blocked by snow. There could be a threatening dog in the area. Estimated reads for a long period of time could result in over-billing or under-billing based on incorrect usage.
If the utility discovers that they have over/under charged they will re-issue bills for the period covering the correction. If you are under contract with an alternative supplier, they will also re-bill. If the utility has over-charged, they will issue some sort of credit, which will not be a check, but rather a billing credit to be used for future charges. In the case of under-charging, the re-bill could be quite shocking depending on how long reads had been estimated for.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Take control and make sure your meter is being read. If you’ve noticed on your monthly bill that your usage has been estimated (most often it will say estimated next to the meter reading), there are several ways to make sure an actual read is registered and billed for:
- Most utilities allow customers to submit their own meter readings: over the phone, through e-mail or online. This may take some education in how to read your meter (as most are still analog), but some utilities make it as easy as taking a picture of your physical meter and sending it directly to them to decipher.
- Some utilities have specific tariffs for larger customers that require installation of a special meter that’s hooked up to a phone line that reports usage back to the utility on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. This means greater accuracy.
Since usage collection and documentation is a utility service, suppliers are at the mercy of the decisions made by the utility. The utility has to trigger any action that will take place due to estimated meter reads, and alternative suppliers have to follow suit.
Special Note for Peoples Gas Light & Coke (PGLC) Customers:
When PGLC reads a meter mid-month, they will estimate the usage for the days thereafter until a bill is issued. For example: if PGLC comes out to read the meter on October 15th, the bill that goes out on October 31st would have 16 days of estimated usage. All adjustments on usage, plus or minus, will be adjusted on the next invoice.
To see if your meter truly has not been read, you should physically read your meter on the ‘billed to date’ and compare it to what is reported on the invoice. If the usage is close, there is most likely not an issue.
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