THOUSANDS of Victorians who have refused electricity smart meters could escape penalties this year.
One company has given rebels a reprieve, and others are considering their position.
About 25,000 customers statewide have defied warnings of possible disconnection and higher charges to resist the installation of digital smart meters, instead keeping older meters that are read manually rather than remotely.
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Power giant AusNet Services has opted not to charge its 8326 “refusers” fees to manually read meters this year.
Other distributors are undecided whether to charge — despite gaining approval to slug residents an additional $11 to $31 per quarter from April.
Such fees would be on top of charges all households and small businesses pay for the government-mandated smart meter rollout.
The Herald Sun understands there are concerns the cost of setting up separate billing systems for refusers and chasing payments from them could outweigh what is spent on manual meter reads.
Stop Smart Meters Australia president Marc Florio said thousands of smart meter opponents had been “bullied” into accepting them, despite their concerns over health, privacy and other matters.
“Many people were threatened that they would have the power cut off, or pay substantially more for electricity. A lot caved in the end, especially older people,” he said. “The whole thing has been a con.”
The Australian Energy Regulator recently approved applications from Jemena, United Energy, CitiPower and Powercor for fees to manually read meters this year.
But United Energy’s Samantha Porter said: “Although we applied … for the fee, we have not yet determined if we will be charging it.”
Jemena, CitiPower and Powercor are also yet to decide whether they will charge the manual reading fees.
The Napthine government gave companies the right to apply to impose the “refuser” fees from this year.
Karen Collier, Herald Sun