Recommendation 11: “Extend the practice of photographing the reading on the old meter during a change of meter (ditto for the procedure set up for smart meters)”
1. Customer observation
The dispute concerned the billing of natural gas consumption following incorrect readings generated by GRDF during a change of a gas meter.
In January 2015, the complainant called the fire department following an incident with his natural gas water heater. As a precaution, the fire department contacted the gas safety emergency service of the natural gas distributor, GRDF, to verify that no danger related to a possible leak was present. During this intervention, the distributor removed the meter and replaced it with a new one showing a reading of 0.
Since that date, the complainant has not consumed natural gas because his water heater was out of service. He therefore no longer needed a natural gas supply contract; however, as a precaution, the complainant kept it.
Between January 2015 and September 2016, bills issued by ENGIE were calculated on the basis of estimated readings. These bills show estimated consumption whereas the complainant had not consumed natural gas. The complainant settled all the bills, considering that he would be refunded as a result of the reading of actual consumption taken by the distributor. At the beginning of September 2016, during the half-yearly reading, GRDF’s technician took a reading with a value of 0. At the end of September 2016, on the basis of this reading, ENGIE issued the complainant with a bill in the sum of €67.80 inclusive of tax.
The complainant considered that this amount in his favour was insufficient given the total amount of the estimated bills he had paid since the gas meter was changed in January 2015.
Despite numerous exchanges with the customer service and consumer service of ENGIE, the complainant failed to obtain the desired reimbursement and so turned to the ENGIE Group’s Mediator.
2. Mediation solution
The Mediation team asked ENGIE for the bills issued and asked GRDF to obtain the information related to consumption and the change of meter.
GRDF indicated that during its intervention, the “gas safety emergency” service did not detect any anomaly at the site. However, it proceeded to change the complainant’s gas meter because it fell within the legal framework for the renewal of meters which were 20 years old or over. GRDF informed the Mediation team that unfortunately the reading on removal of the complainant’s old meter had not been recorded in its computer system whereas its procedures specify that the reading must be taken on removal.
At the beginning of September 2016, GRDF proceeded with computerisation of the change of meter. At this point, not having the actual reading on the date the old meter was removed, it calculated an estimate. This meant that ENGIE billed the complainant in September 2016 in the sum of €67.80 inclusive of tax in his favour.
The Mediation team found that the reading on removal of the old meter, calculated by GRDF, was wrong since it included consumption after the actual date of the change of meter. However, the complainant’s consumption was nil. Therefore, the complainant wrongly paid for consumption which was not demonstrated between January 2015 and September 2016.
As part of the mediation process, GRDF revised the removal reading of the old meter and also agreed to pay compensation in the amount of €200 including tax.
3. Generic observation
The dispute concerned the billing of natural gas consumption following an error in estimating the readings by GRDF during a change of gas meter due to a failure to record the reading of the old meter on removal.
4. Recommendation / generic solution
When a natural gas meter is changed, GRDF, in accordance with its existing procedures, is in possession of the readings at the removal and installation of meters and records the change in the computer system as close as possible to the actual date. The aim being for the customer to be charged for actual consumption.
So with a view to safeguarding this procedure, we recommend systematically taking a photograph of the old meter on removal, as provided for in connection with the roll-out of smart meters.