Generally, when something untoward happens at home it's my fault. I am the household manager - in part, because the other half isn't interested in assuming the role and in part because I like to know what's going on.
Some might say it's because I'm a control freak, but I prefer to think of it as caring, not controlling.
However, being a benign dictator means you have a responsibility to those in your realm. So if we run out of toilet paper that's my fault. And when it comes to paying the bills, that's me, too. So when I was sorting out the accounts this week and saw our gas and electricity bill had more than doubled, I just about had a conniption. How could this be?
The combined bill is usually about $350 with the prompt discount payment Contact deigns to offer its customers. That's what I'd budgeted for and that's what I was prepared for. This month, the bill was $715.15, more than double what we usually pay.
In shock, I rang Contact and after about 15 minutes listening to music that did little to soothe me, I spoke to a lovely woman who began to put me through my paces. Could I check the meter reading? Unfortunately it matched the bill. Could I see if the hot water cylinder was leaking? No, it wasn't. On and on it went as I roamed the house and the nice call centre woman went through her prepared questions. Finally she said she'd put the bill on hold until a plumber and gas fitter could come around and check the hot water and heating.
How can Contact possibly justify a bill that is double the amount of any other bill we've had in the past two years?
There are only two of us and we live in a cottage. There's no spa pool, no floodlit tennis court, no heated swimming pool, so how could this be?
I went through the bills from the same time the previous year and, yep, there they were, about $350 for the coldest months of the year. And that was when we had my daughter and son-in-law staying with us, both of whom had long showers and a fanatical commitment to having every electrical appliance going at once.
How can Contact possibly justify a bill that is double the amount of any other bill we've had in the past two years? And the very next day I received an email with the headline: "Make winter a little less sweary". The copy read: "Winter power bills can be a bit of a shock. So now you can spread your payments out evenly across the whole year. It's a lot easier to manage your budget when all your energy payments are pretty much the same."
Patronising, condescending corporation. My bills were pretty much the same for two years, you thieving bastards, until you hiked the prices up beyond all recognition.
And when I started looking into the company I found that the chairman told shareholders only a week or so ago that Contact has so much money it's in a bit of a quandary. Apparently, the boss is looking at giving the shareholders higher dividends, share buybacks, or a capital return because it's raking in so much money it doesn't know what to do with it.
Well, I tell you what, Contact, you won't be paying your shareholders with any more of my money. For the first time since Max Bradford carved up the electricity industry I'm grateful we have competition. Because I don't have to put up with you ratcheting up my bill by more than 100 per cent without any hint such a significant price hike is in the wind. I've made an executive decision. And this time I'm not willing to accept it's me. Contact, it's you. We're through.
• Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB, Monday-Thursday, 8pm-midnight.
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