We may have been operating under COVID-19 restrictions for a while now, but many of us are still struggling to adjust.
That’s perfectly understandable when so many of the things we’ve long taken for granted simply stop or have to be significantly modified.
For many of us in Victoria, even something like filling the car up with petrol has gone from a weekly occurrence (and expense) to once a month, or longer.
While the way we live our daily lives has changed, it’s probably more important that we spare a thought for those whose work has either stalled or has needed major adjustments.
We’d like to give a shout out to some of the people who keep our business ticking over: the local distributors and, particularly, the meter readers.
Meter reading has been impacted
One of the impacts on our business is the mixed messages we are getting about the frequency of some meter reads as the meter reading companies juggle the responsibility of performing meter reads with the conflicting responsibility of keeping their staff safe from COVID-19.
It’s had less of an impact on electricity billing in Victoria, given that electricity usage is monitored by smart meters for most households, but Victoria’s gas meters are all still basic. In other states, the majority of meters are basic.
Basic meters need to be read manually, which means a person – your friendly neighbourhood meter reader – has to visit the site and eyeball the dial.
And, of course, some meters are indoors, which means the meter reader has to interact with the customer to do his or her job.
What’s been happening during COVID times?
Understandably, the messaging from the metering companies has been changing as the circumstances around the pandemic – and the corresponding health advice – change. It started coming through back in March.
On the 18th of March, AusNet Services expressed concerns for their staff’s safety during to the pandemic, noting there could be an impact on service levels:
“As the situation remains fluid, we will continue to provide updates on any impacts to our service levels in the future”.
On the 19th of March, Essential Energy informed us they would be “suspending basic routine meter readings” and stopping “special reading service orders (Including Check read, Move in, or Move out reads)”.
On the 23rd of March, Jemena said “that due to increased health and safety measures required during the COVID-19 pandemic our ability to perform some network activities will be impacted”.
They added that “the nature of work that will be postponed will be where we need to enter a customer’s property”.
Subsequently, in late April, an industry body in NSW informed us “some networks and meter data providers are no longer undertaking site visits, therefore an increase in estimated reads and, as a result, billing disputes” could be expected.
Meanwhile, Multinet/AGN has advised their meter readers may not enter homes and that all works related to entry have ceased.
Where meter reading activities can continue, all field staff are required to follow strict hygiene and physical distancing rules. Multinet acknowledges that the COVID-19 situation will remain highly fluid for some time yet (this information is on Multinet/AGN’s websites as public information).
What does it mean for us?
GloBird doesn’t perform any meter reads or employ any of the meter readers. We do, however, rely on the various local metering companies that provide this service to you and us.
We completely understand that these companies have a duty to protect their staff. We also acknowledge that things are changing – sometimes quite quickly, sometimes not quickly enough for anyone’s liking – due to the pandemic.
So, given that meter reading has been impacted and we rely on either actual reads or estimates in our billing, we hope that everyone can accept that, while we’re all doing our best to keep things as close to the pre-COVID way as possible, it’s not always possible.
The reading of meters is outside our control, which is why we have asked our valued customers to be flexible and understanding that the frequency of some meter reads has been reduced, by necessity.
We’re grateful for customers who have helped by sending us a photo of their meter so we can pass it on to the distributor where the local meter reader was unable to attend the site.
So, thank you for your patience and thanks to the meter readers and local distributors who have been keeping things going as best they can in these difficult times.
We hope that they, along with all of our valued customers and the wider community, stay well and we can all return to something much more like the ‘old normal’ very soon.