To Read or Not to Read, To Bill or Not to Bill
by CURTIS H. CADENHEAD, JR. Partner, Houston Office
Presented before the Northeast Gas Association,
Springfield, Massachusetts—May 1968
WITH the spiraling costs companies have faced, particularly in the last ten years, and are expected to be facing in the foreseeable future, our thoughts necessarily turn to ideas for reducing these costs or at least to holding the line. After all, rate cases are time-consuming and expensive and at times can be avoided or delayed by controlling costs. Although costs are an important factor, other factors such as the available labor force are also important. Therefore, we do not need to look far in search of incentives for reducing costs or streamlining operations.
One area in particular that has received, and is currently receiving, much attention is meter reading and billing. To read or not to read, to bill or not to bill, that is the question. In presenting this subject today I shall first discuss the merits and demerits of reading and billing less frequent than monthly and then consider alternatives to this approach.
MONTHLY BILLING AND READING
In setting the background for our discussion, we may ask, "What is so sacred about monthly meter reading and billing?" The usual arguments
presented for the monthly approach are :
• Customer billing takes place at regular, short intervals and covers
actual usage, thereby causing little adverse customer reaction.
• The bill is smaller in amount, smaller deposits are required, and
uncollectible accounts are less. On the other side of the coin, however, there may also be disadvantages
to monthly reading and billing.
• The customer must pay for the high cost of preparing and processing