What to do if you have to dispute an invoice for utilities
Most energy providers send monthly bills for energy use.
A provider may send a back bill (or catch-up bill) if you have not received a bill for a long time, or where monthly bills were too low for some reason.
A back bill may also be caused by billing errors, such as an unbilled meter, billing on the wrong meter, or a mistake in calculating the bill. It is important to find out what caused the back bill and to make sure it is accurate.
If you get a back bill you should contact your energy provider and ask for an explanation of why it was sent. If you are are not satisfied with the explanation, you can tell the provider you want to make a complaint. Tell the provider what you believe would be a fair and reasonable outcome for your complaint, and why. Often people can resolve back bill complaints directly with the provider. You should continue to pay undisputed amounts while your complaint is being considered. The provider can take credit action, including disconnection, on any unpaid amounts not in dispute.
If you are not happy with the way the provider responds to your complaint, you can ask Utilities Complaints to look into it.
They can consider complaints where the amount in dispute is up to $50,000, or up to $100,000 if the provider agrees. If you do not accept the outcome you can take your complaint to another forum, such as the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court. For more information ring Utilities Disputes freephone 0800223340 or visit their website.
■ For free and confidential advice and information on this or any other matter visit the Palmerston North Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Hancock Community House, 77 King St, Mon-Fri from 9 am-4.30 pm, 357 0647 or 0800 367 222. We have a free legal advice service by qualified lawyers most Thursday evenings at 7.30 pm, and a JP is available on Tuesdays from noon — 2.30pm. No appointment is necessary for either of these services.