To protect the privacy of certain individuals the names and identifying details have been changed.
Letisha Tyndall has been with her utility company for three years and has spent the past two years on a budget billing plan. This plan averages out Letisha’s annual utility costs over 12 months, so she knows exactly what her utility bill will be each month. For Letisha, this allows her to work within her budget to make sure she can cover her utilities each month.
In December, Letisha received a bonus from work and decided to pay a little more than her usual budget bill. The next month, Letisha noticed a credit of $56.00 on the Budget Amount Due line of her bill. Since her amount owing read 56.00CR she assumed that her credit took care of the bill that month.
A month later, Letisha complained to a friend over coffee that the balance on her account was $317.30, which was $212.00 more than it was the previous month, despite the credit on her last bill. Her friend mentioned that her uncle had called the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) to help out her great aunt with some billing issues. Letisha quickly googled the UCA on her phone and saved the phone number so she could call later.
A Mediation Officer answered Letisha’s call and was able to work with her to address her concerns. Letisha emailed copies of her utility bills from the past few months to the Mediation Officer who helped Letisha read and understand her budget billing plan.
Letisha learned that the credit did not mean that she should not pay her usual budget amount of $212.00. While she paid extra last month, she still had a standing balance owing on her budget. She learned where to find her account balance on her bill. The Mediation Officer also showed Letisha that under the meter readings for her electricity and gas, there was a message about the difference between her budget amount and the actual energy charges that month. Letisha was grateful that the Mediation Officer took the time to explain her bill and ensure she understood her budget billing plan.
Budget billing is set up to evenly spread out the cost of utilities over a year. It is important to always pay your budget amount each month, even if there is a credit.
Over the colder months, utilities typically cost more than they do in warmer months, which is why accounts can carry a balance or a credit depending on the time of year. By the end of the year, you may receive either a settle-up bill or credit, depending on whether you paid the full amount or still owe money.
If you are worried that you are carrying a high balance on your account, contact your utility company to increase your monthly budget billing amount. You can usually find the account balance under the Budget Amount Due line on the first page of your bill.