Saturday, 2 February 2013

More than small change ~ read, read, read, those household bills, invoices and receipts!

During the last week I have gone back over household bills and found serious errors in two of them.  The total I successfully established as being overcharged amounted to an astonishing $244.02.  Both bills were made out by reputable companies with whom I have had accounts for years, one for electricity and the other for insurance.  Both errors occurred when each of these companies transferred one of their systems to another.  I hadn't done or changed a single thing. 

Last November the power company changed our meter for a 'smarter' one, which was supposed to enable them to do actual readings for each billing, which, three months after the event, they have yet to do, then proceeded to write out usage estimates based on a vastly inflated figments of their own imagination, and added to these a charge for a 'night boost' service which we have never had.  These bills do not make for easy reading or interpretation: working out what had happened took me some time, but was absolutely worthwhile: when I phoned the company I knew my ground and was able to make sure that the assistant at the service centre was on the same track.  He was helpful and apologetic and I now have an account that has been reduced from $213.69 to $47.32.  That I can handle!

The insurance company in their turn, had taken it into their heads to stop 'offering' the policy I had been covered by in the past and replaced it with a different one, one which gave more comprehensive coverage - of the sort I hadn't been asked about or agreed to.  I paid the bill some days ago without reading the accompanying letter or information sheets properly, which was a mistake!  Today, when I was tossing out various papers which had been cluttering my desk, I came across a leaflet that came with it which mentioned an additional 'benefit' which made up $50 of the premium charged.  What?!  I got on the phone and quizzed the consultant, who was at first puzzled and then apologetic.  Since I didn't require such extensive coverage my policy would be amended and a refund made to my account of $77.65.  Phewf!

It pays to watch these things closely.  I was glad to have previous bills and small print from the past easily to hand so that I could check on these and was sure of my ground.  The personnel who attended to my calls may not have needed me to quote them but knowing their contents helped my confidence and I was able to make the whole situation clearer sooner than might otherwise have been the case. 

These service providers should know their business well enough not to need supervision by their customers but it helps.  I wonder how many others have been napping when they paid their overcharged bills and never noticed.  Note that they are overcharged, not undercharged.  

But as I said to both assistants, I want to pay the correct amount, whatever that it is, and I want to be clear about what that is for.  Our vigilance as customers helps keep our service providers honest and on track.  It pays to keep an eye on them - literally!  Watch them like hawks!

You can find my other articles about housekeeping and shopping via the link below:

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