Owners fume over bill
A RESTAURANT owner is angry he’ll spend the next two years struggling to pay off a shock $7000 gas bill.
Serm Kongwatana was sent the bill by gas provider Contact Energy after three years of problems with reading his gas meter.
He feared his business would be ruined after first receiving the payment demand earlier this year.
“I called Contact and said I can’t afford to pay,” he says.
“I can barely survive at the moment anyway.”
Mr Kongwatana and his wife Rawan, who have run the Royal Siam restaurant in Royal Oak for 10 years, changed gas suppliers to Contact Energy in 2005. They have had problems with the meter ever since.
Contact Energy contacted the restaurant several times to report it was faulty, or too high to read, or unable to be accessed.
Permission was given for the meter to be fixed, but nothing was done for three years.
Mr Kongwatana says the previous company had no problems reading the meter, which is on a wall outside the restaurant.
“It has been there for more than 10 years,” he says.
When the meter was finally replaced earlier this year, the company sent a catch-up bill for $6907.17.
Mr Kongwatana, who works seven days a week, says he doesn’t have the money to pay it.
And the bill has come at a particularly slow time for the business.
A schedule of weekly payments spread over a year was agreed to in June.
But since then, Mr Kongwatana has received six letters saying the overdue amount must be paid in full, or the gas would be cut off.
Contact Energy spokesman Jonathan Hill has apologised for the Kongwatana’s “less than perfect experience”.
“It’s pretty clear that this customer has not had the kind of service we want to provide,” he says.
Mr Hill says the bill arose because of problems reading the meter and the bank failing to process payments, which were not Mr Kongwatana’s fault.
“It’s just been a combination of things that haven’t gone right for this customer and we’re very sorry about that.”
Contact Energy has now offered a payment scheme spread over two years, a move Mr Kongwatana says he’s accepted to avoid the gas being disconnected.
But he will still pursue a complaint through the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commission.
Contact Energy is a member of the commission, and must comply with the gas consumer code of practice.
Disputes about bills or metering for amounts up to $20,000 can be considered.
Gas shock: Royal Oak restaurant owners Serm and Rawan Kongwatana were stunned to receive a $7000 gas bill.