Householders will be able to use photos of their electricity and gas meters to dispute their power bills under new rules being proposed by the Turnbull government.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says while smart meters are being rolled out that allow remote readings, there are still many people with the old-style meters that have to be read manually.
“When there are issues with reading these meters, bills can be based on estimated rather than actual usage … these estimates can result in significant under or overcharging,” Mr Frydenberg said on Thursday.
“This needs to change.”
Some companies already let customers send in photos of their meters, and in the era of smartphones it made sense to extend this to everyone, the minister said.
The new rules would allow customers to have their electricity or gas bill based on their own reading of a meter, and oblige retailers to make sure bills aren’t based on grossly inaccurate estimates.
Mr Frydenberg isn’t concerned about people doctoring or tampering with photos in order to cheat the system for cheaper electricity prices.
“Obviously you would ensure you have a strict compliance regime,” he told reporters.
“As it currently works it’s very effective, but it’s not rolled out on a broad scale.”
The Australian Energy Market Commission will have to go through its own consultation process, but Mr Frydenberg said he hopes the changes are in force “before too long”.
The government also will ask the commission to consider imposing penalties for breaches of the new rules if it adopts them.