Manually Report Utility Meter Readings To Avoid Being Overcharged

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I strongly urge you to read this post.  It will help you avoid being overcharged as I was.

Last month I wrote a post titled Automatic Bill Pay Concerns that urged readers to closely monitor any auto-drafts they set up for monthly bills.  To summarize the article:

If you use automatic bill paying features, MAKE SURE you check each & every bill for accuracy.  Though it may not happen every month, you may be surprised how many times there is a Monopoly type “money error in your favor”.  Pass go, collect $200!

Today I felt the need to be more specific and beseech you to start reporting manual meter readings for you natural gas and/or electric provider immediately to avoid being errantly overcharged!  It happened to me the last two consecutive months.  To manually report your natural gas and/or electric meter reading, simply contact your utility provider by phone or visit their website for specific & detailed instructions.  In my experience I just read the gas meter and called it in to a customer service rep.

How To Read Your Natural Gas Meter

Here’s how much my manual reading saved me…

April 2009 – Gas & Electric Bill

My original bill on 4/13/2009 was for $319.14.  I suspected the amount to be unusually high and called to ensure a correct reading had been taken and to report my manual reading.  After a few minutes the customer service rep delivered the good news that their initial meter reading was indeed incorrect & my new bill amount was $202.46.  A total savings of $116.68 for the month of April!

May 2009 – Gas & Electric Bill

Late last week I logged into my online billing to see the original amount of $194.87.  I thought about it for a minute, figured the amount could be high (especially after what happened a month prior) and decided I would call in my reading again to see if there was any error.  Once again, after a few minutes the CSR informed me their reading was once again incorrect and that my new bill amount was $151.42.  A savings of $43.45 for the month of May.

To Summarize…

By calling in and reporting my gas & electric (I have one provider for both services) meter readings manually for two straight months I was able to reclaim a total of $160.13 of errant charges.  Was this happenstance, or is my utility company using this practice on many of its customers to pad its bottom line in rough economic times?  What do you think?

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1 Matt SF

I think you should send your story to the local news station as well as The Consumerist.

I love the idea of automated meter reading, but if even a single customer is overcharged, it needs to be remedied or discarded.

2 DebtFREEk!

Good idea Matt, I think I will take your advice. I’ll let you know what happens too.


3 Alan @ Saving For Serenity

When you got your bill, was it reported as an actual reading or as an “estimated” reading? If it was estimated, then it most likely was higher than an actual reading. The companies obviously estimate high, just in case.

If it has been getting estimated, find out why. If the reader can’t get access to your meter, make sure that they can. Clear bushes, open gates, etc.

If you call in a lower reading than it actually is, be aware that eventually you’re going to have to pay for the usage. If you get a low bill one month, it’ll be “made up” the next. If you get overcharged, the next month it will be even lower.

When you’re reading your meter, be sure to read it from right to left. If the first dial (on the right) is at a “0”, the next, even if it is in between the 1 and the 2, is actually a “2”, as it is dependent on the dial before it.

4 DebtFREEk!

Both months were listed as actual readings.

I did give accurate readings because, as you said, giving a lower reading will just result in having to pay for the usage the next month since the meter always continues to roll.

We have no obstructions in front of the meters, and none to get back to them…it’s all wide open.

When they request the reading, they know most people do not know how to read a meter, so they just ask you for the two numbers each dial is between, and round up.

So, I still don’t know why they reported inaccurate readings, but thanks a lot for all the info Alan, all really good stuff.

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