Bug bytes Integral bills

The electricity accounts of more than 300,000 Sydney householders and businesses were delayed as a result of the installation of a new computer billing system at Integral Energy.

While most bills have now been delivered, 70,000 of Integral's customers won't receive a statement until the first week of February, according to Integral Energy's customer operations group general manager, Jeff McCarthy.

He said some customers received unusually large accounts -- reflecting a longer than usual billing period. Integral would not identify the systems responsible for the glitch.

Apologising to customers for the delays, McCarthy said Integral was upgrading its computer-based Customer Service System to improve its capacity to meet increased customer service demands. "The upgrade required extensive testing to ensure that the system operates satisfactorily for our 755,000 customers."

"Unfortunately the testing -- along with unforeseen technical problems mainly due to data conversion from the old billing system to the new system -- delayed the issue of accounts."

The computer glitch has forced Integral to introduce a plan to help minimise customer inconvenience. The plan includes a written apology for delays, an extension of time to pay accounts, a billing hotline for customers, and an increase in the number of call centre operators.

It is not known whether the NSW State-owned organisation will seek compensation for the problems associated with the upgrade.

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