Don’t miss anything

Is there a hole in your company’s pocket?

Manage energy costs

Sew it up with bill verification.

You might not see a hole in your pocket, but cash could be slipping out unnoticed. The same is true when it comes to energy bills. Sometimes, those bills cost you more money than they should, and if you let errors go unchecked, it’s like leaving a hole in your pocket from which cash can be lost. That’s why it pays to invest some effort in bill verification every month.

Everyday oops

Billing errors are just that: errors and accidents. They’re always the result of human or computer mistakes. Still, when researchers from global management consultancy Accenture, reported on The Five Biggest Areas of Corporate Spending Waste, over-spending on energy was the first item covered. Mistakes on energy bills were part of the problem.

“Approximately 1 per cent to 2 per cent (and sometimes as high as 5 per cent) of utility bills contain errors,” the Accenture report stated. So, if a power provider has 250,000 customers, a 1 per cent error rate means 2,500 customers have an in accurate bill every month. That’s more than 80 a day. For an example closer to home there are almost 500,000 business accounts in the province of Ontario. That means there are probably at least 160 incorrect invoices produced per day.

As noted earlier, computer problems often are the culprit. A new invoicing system at one provincial distribution company prompted some 8,000 calls to the Ontario ombudsman a few years ago.

Approximately 1 per cent to 2 per cent (and sometimes as high as 5 per cent) of utility bills contain errors

Regulatory changes might create issues, too. This past September, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced in a throne speech that her government would be eliminating the provincial 8-per-cent portion of the 13-per-cent harmonized sales tax on electricity bills for homes and small businesses. Now, local distribution companies will need to adjust billing systems, and they must do so by January 2017, when the changes go into effect. That’s not a lot of time for adjustments to an enterprise system that touches thousands of people and businesses and generates almost 6 million invoices per year at more than 70 distribution companies. That’s a lot of systems to change by a lot of people in a very short time.

Manual processes can introduce errors, too. Some power suppliers manually adjust rate class if you have a usage spike one month, and it doesn’t always get changed back when your usage goes back to normal.

Why it pays to look and keep looking

 In our experience, a 24- to 36-month look-back performed can generally find at least one opportunity, regardless of the type of business examined. What kind of savings could that mean for a company like yours? Here are a few examples of some past wins we have helped our customers find, and you can find more on our website:

billverificationtable

Many companies have someone checking the electricity bill, and that’s a great start. But how does an accountant’s monthly bill review compare to an automated system? Your accountant (or even an energy manager, if you have one) won’t correlate meter readings with demand charges and look for things like inaccurate calculations, unexpected usage or unearned late fees. However, a bill verification service will do that level of analysis and and more.

While the person who checks your invoices probably compares this month’s energy bill to the one you received last month or even the one from a year ago, a bill verification service like the Bruce Power Saver can electronically compare each month’s bill to the bills of months before, checking for historical continuity from month to month or year over year. That’s like checking each bill against all the other bills in the file cabinet to make sure they all align.

That kind of detailed auditing can make a big difference. It did for a large manufacturing plant that typically spends $6 million per year on electricity. After this firm gave Bruce Power Direct 24 months of bills to audit, we found an error of $194,638 on one month’s bill. The company had been checking each bill manually, but this mistake was easily missed because the firm’s energy bills had a month-to-month variance of up to $300,000. Split-month billing also made those bills hard to check by hand.

You can liken a utility bill verification application to patting down your pockets or shuffling through your purse just to make sure your wallet is still where it should be. Taking a look at each bill is that casual pat-down. Running the bill though an automated bill verification service is like pulling your wallet out of your pocket, checking your wallet for the right amount of cash, making sure you haven’t left your debit card on the tip tray in a restaurant and reconciling the balance of your bank account on your phone while you’re at it.

In other words, it’s a more thorough approach to making sure the bill you pay is the bill you should pay. Automated bill verification sews up that hole in you pocket so you can quit worrying and start saving.

Would you like even more insights into how you can manage your consumption and save on energy? Sign up for our Six Insights in Six Days email series.


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