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The Diary of Anne Ku

1 August 2000 Tuesday humid but cooling down


A conference speaker once asked an audience of utility executives: "who is your customer?"

The executives looked at each other as if the answer was too obvious.

The speaker held up a METER and said: "this is your customer."

For decades, utilities supplied power to the meter. They knew nothing of the people who used it, what they used it for, only to call on them to read the meter and chase after payment. With deregulation, the customer is no longer the meter - but people who demand service.

I have changed electricity suppliers three times in the past three years. My current one has me on a direct debit system. Even though I have been in credit for a year, they still debit the same amount and over-estimate my electricity usage. I had to call the Customer Services Desk to explain that they should lower my direct debit amount otherwise they will always owe me money.

My previous supplier has been chasing me for outstanding payment from a year ago. What they didn't realise was that I left them precisely for their inability to read my meter and bill me properly. They had accidentally added an extra zero to the kWh reading - and no one bothered to correct it until I wrote a two page letter describing my rigorous spreadsheet analysis of different scenarios in which I might possibly use so much electricity. They still don't get the picture. I finally called the billing manager and explained that deregulation really wasn't working for the customer. This would make a brilliant case study. She promptly zeroed out my remaining balance and asked me to bin all invoices. "I promise you will never hear from us again."