FURIOUS Wagga homeowners zapped by exorbitant estimated electricity bills have slammed the NSW energy watchdog as a “toothless tiger”.
The turnaround in fortunes comes just days after the NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman, Janine Young, announced she would probe Essential Energy over a serious of complaints – in some cases amounting to many thousands of dollars in overcharging – emerging from Wagga.
But by Wednesday Ms Young had already finalised her inquires and said she was “satisfied” the company was reading 90 per cent of meters.
“There is regulatory requirement and I’m satisfied they are meeting those requirements,” she said.
The Ombudsman – whose office is funded by industry contributions – said Essential only carried out estimations of electricity use when the meter reader was unable to enter the property due to a locked gate or if it was unsafe.
The findings are in stark contrast to the inundation of correspondence received by the Advertiser expressing frustration over bill blow-outs despite no changes in household fittings.
Craig Veitch – who was charged an estimated bill 241 per cent higher than the meter reading – said the findings “didn’t gel” with the community response.
“I find it hard they could complete a thorough investigation in that time,” he said.
“The amount of people that have come to me all with their own personal story does not match their 90 per cent figure.”
Ms Young vowed that the energy watchdog existed for consumers.
“I have not yet looked at any (formal) individual complaint,” she said.
“If people are not satisfied with their bill, I would encourage them to ring and we’ll investigate it to the nth degree.”
Ms Young added that she had a “very probing discussion” with Essential Energy over the situation.
Essential Energy's southern regional manager, Steven Ilitch, maintained that estimated readings were “historically low”.
Mr Ilitch said the occurrence of estimated billing remained relatively stable in Wagga over the past five years.
NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman 1800 246 545