NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe is warning the public to carefully check their bills, pointing to a recent case in which a consumer detected significant errors in two bills in the space of a week, saving themselves nearly $400 out of bills totalling $1,000.
Mr Stowe said many people assumed their bills, whether for home loans, utilities, credit cards or even supermarket purchases, were error free.
“Don’t always assume a service provider has got it right,” he said. “A bill may be less fact than fiction. Every consumer needs to play detective with their accounts. Interrogation can often save you serious money.
“All bills and accounts are worthy of scrutiny. In the cited case significant errors appeared in two bills, one a mortgage account and the other a phone bill.
“When the providers were contacted, they admitted their errors and agreed to reverse the incorrect charges.
“Just because many payment systems are automated doesn’t mean there is no margin for error.
“Read your bills carefully when they arrive. Make sure you haven’t been overcharged or been double billed and contact the trader or your credit card provider if you pick up any errors. They will usually help resolve incorrect billing.
“Scanning errors can occur in transactions like grocery shopping. Read your receipts as soon as you get them and let the cashier know if you detect a mistake.
“Check subscription renewal notices to make sure you are only paying for the correct renewal period.
“Challenge unsubstantiated price increases on subscriptions, insurances and other products and services.
“Shop around for comparison prices and contact your current service provider. You will often find they are happy to review your account to keep you as a customer.”
Mr Stowe said consumers should feel comfortable challenging businesses about bills.
“It pays to speak up and question any items you don’t recall paying for or don’t understand,” he said. “A savvy consumer is an assertive consumer.
“Keep your receipts and keep your cool when dealing with traders who may have overcharged or double charged you.
“Credit card fraud is also something everyone should be alert to. Thieves can charge to your card by simply using your card numbers and expiration date. Don’t forget to check automatic or direct debits for errors too.”