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Aussie mum hit with $1,500 bill: ‘Shocked and confused’

NSW mum Tamarra was stunned when she opened her electricity bill.

Tamarra and her family and a person viewing their electricity bill on their phone.
Tamarra and her family got a shocking surprise when they opened their electricity bill. (Source: Provided / AAP)

New South Wales mum Tamarra was stunned when she opened her electricity bill and saw it was almost double what she normally paid.

“I was shocked and confused. I initially thought the bill was for two quarters because it's usually about $600-$800 per quarter,” she told Yahoo Finance.

Instead, what she saw was a $1,500 bill. And it wasn’t just higher electricity costs that sent her bill flying.

“We printed out our last 12 months of bills and the only difference we could see was the service charge to the property had jumped from $38 to around $140,” she said.

Family forced to 'do things differently' after huge bill

“We are being cautious of our spending including grocery bills. We do things differently now. We've bought a clothes horse instead of using the dryer, switched off the kettle and other appliances at the wall, turn off lights when they're not in use and will be wearing extra layers in winter to help with keeping warm.”

And Tamarra is not alone. Aussie households around the country are preparing for bill shock as the weather cools, with electricity bills for some homes set to rise as much as 23.7 per cent from July.

“Most of us have recently received a shock electricity bill that was much higher than we expected, but it’s going to get worse,” energy expert and Solar Analytics CEO Stefan Jarnason said.

The Australian Energy Regulator flagged the increases in default prices which are expected to affect homes in NSW, Queensland and South Australia. Meanwhile, the Victorian regulator has suggested prices there could increase by almost a third.

One million Australians are expected to be affected by the rise.

“Temporary supply chain disruptions and shortages have abated, yet we’re still seeing rising energy prices because retailers have a plethora of sneaky tricks up their sleeves when it comes to electricity bills,” Jarnason said.

“Australians are already struggling with the cost of living, and a big electricity bill could be enough to push some families over the edge.”

Energy bill tricks to look out for

1. Loyalty tax

“One common trick that electricity retailers use is the knowledge that most people are too ‘lazy’ to switch to a cheaper energy plan,” Jarnason said.

“Although this is now a simple online process, most people have busy lives and are unsure if switching really will save them money. So, many people stick with their old, and far too expensive, energy plan. They call it the ‘loyalty’ or ‘lazy tax’. Don’t be caught out.”

2. Complex and confusing tariffs

Try not to get confused by complex charges and tariffs, Jarnason said.

“Time of Use, Supply Charge, Feed-in-Tariff, Shoulder Period, Member Discount, GST, changing prices, stepped tariff, demand tariff, KVA charges … energy bills are complex and confusing,” he said.

“They are complex to make it difficult for people to decide which tariff and energy plan is cheapest, so you keep paying the loyalty tax. And it is especially difficult for people who have rooftop solar due to the complication of the solar Feed-in Tariff.”

3. Hidden fees and charges

“Another dirty trick is to charge customers hidden fees and charges. For example, there may be fees for paper bills, late payments, or early contract termination that are hidden in the fine print,” he said.

“The regulators have been pretty good at eliminating these, but a few still sneak through.”

4. Sneaky advertising

Janarson said to watch out for providers offering attractive sign-up incentives such as cash back, gift cards, or discounts on the first bill to entice new customers.

“While these incentives may be genuine, customers should read the terms and conditions carefully to ensure that they understand what they are signing up for and if there are any hidden costs or fees,” he said.

“Be aware that electricity retailers are only offering these because they know they will make more money in the long run.”

5. Bundles with Other Services

“Some electricity retailers may offer bundled packages that combine electricity and gas or include other services such as home internet or mobile phone plans.

“While some of these may indeed provide savings - compared to purchasing each service separately - make sure to compare each service, not just against what you are paying now, but against the cheapest available plan for you.”

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