Thursday, May 28, 2009

Here's Another One for The Italian Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmm?" File

It took us 4 months to figure out our living situation here in Italy. It took us 6 months to figure out how to get a proper internet connection. And now after an entire year, we've finally figured out the crazy world of paying bills in Italy. Specifically, the gas bill.

Since moving to Bologna we've been legally robbed by the Italian gas company Hera on a bi-monthly basis. At first I thought - we're not in the US and gas is CAH-RAZY expensive here, therefore I didn't think twice about our gas bills. But after the second and third bills arrived, Em and I realized we needed to be waaaaaay more attentive on how much gas we used. So we did just that, acting like responsible adults (!), and not consuming too much energy. Tracking our conservation efforts, we expected a much less expensive gas bill the fourth time around.

Nope. It was TRIPLE the previous two bills put together.

Long story short, because of our previous experiences with apartment hunting, getting phones, internet service, etc. - we learned that there's the recommended way of doing things... and then the Italian way of doing things. So, I had a hunch that there was something Italians were doing with their gas bills that the guide books just don't tell you about in the How To Pay Bills In Italy chapter.

After a week of asking all of my students, the consensus (more theory than fact) was that Hera has this formula where they work off of the highest gas bill ever paid in the history of your apartment (ours goes back to the 1600s, fyi), and base consumption estimates on that. BUT, and here's where your glasses for reading really fine print come in handy, there's a phone number where you can automatically input your meter usage, and voila! Accurate bills!

I rushed home to Em the night I found out about this to explain what I had just learned. Her response was the stink-eye and incredulity at the fact that the Bologna branch of Hera had never thought of hiring actual meter readers for the city center. After reminding her that we're not dealing with Con-Edison anymore, I tried my hand at this autolettura (literally, self reading). Lo and behold, the wonderful people at Hera sent me my most recent gas bill...

Yup. That is indeed a NEGATIVE 457 euros. Papa's not paying for gas for the rest of the year!

(Fingers crossed, of course).


Polideuce said... la cosa divertente è che "paese che vai usanze che trovi", per cui dove vivo io, la stessa regione, ma a cento chilometri di distanza, la lettura del consumo del gas lo fanno dalla centrale (anche se è comunque buona norma non fidarsi troppo e controllare i consumi sul contatore); l'unica è informarsi presso i locali riguardo le usanze del posto :asd:

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, that happened to me too... more than once! Although it's nice that they "refund" the money, it's still annoying that we had to fork out all that cash in the first place AND lose interest on it to boot :(

Katherine said...

Ha! That is hilarious and I'm really glad you got it figured out. Our gas bill keeps going up here too. I'll need to do some researching after learning this!!

Roam2Rome said...

That's way too funny!

Our gas bills in the 3 apartments I've rented in Italy since 6 years ago have always been covered in my apartment rent, so I've never had to bother with this. Good to know!

Anonymous said...

just immagine our surprise to discover that the statute of limitations on that sort of "non-reading" is 5 years (60 months) and the electric company in Venice decided at 59.5 months to check the meters (to not misso ut on the possible windfall), and most everyone in a 5 mile radius got 1-2-3+000 (lots of euros) electric bills ("conguaglio").

The "carta di servizio" says "at least" once a year, but you know, sometimes it's better to enjoy a cigarette watching the sun on the lagoon than get around to finishing your rounds. And so on and so on, for years.

I also had a similar refund with the gas though, but it arrived by check after 7 months from when they recognized the fact, and you couldn't just use it as "credit" against future in the meanwhile.


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