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Energy firms refuse to remove unwanted smart meters

Eleanor Newis
Jan 10, 2019

Households told they are stuck with unwanted smart meters

Smart meters are devices which show the amount of gas and electricity being used in a property. They have been sparking controversy since the UK Government called for their rollout nationwide, and now customers are finding that after agreeing to a smart meter, they are unable to change their minds and have them removed.

These meters are supposed to save customers money — but lots of households find that if they switch energy supplier, their meter ceases to work.

There have been ongoing concerns from those who have opted out of having a smart meter, as companies have not listened to this preference. Though the Government has urged people to get the meters, under current UK law they are still optional.

Reasons for refusing to have one installed include the idea that it makes switching supplier more difficult — as the meter might stop working. This means that having a meter could fail to save users money in the long run.

So, what happens if your supplier installs a meter anyway without your permission?

This is the situation that Mr Nightingale, who spoke to This is Money, found himself in. He has been unable to remove two smart meters that were fitted without his permission by tenants in a property he was renting out.

Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, states that if you’re renting your property and you pay for the energy, you can opt for a smart meter. But it does suggest informing the landlord before it is fitted.

When Mr Nightingale discovered the installation, he contact the energy company in question, Scottish Power, to get it removed. Despite an appointment for the process being arranged, an engineer never showed up to do the work.

After trying to initially rearrange the appointment, Scottish Power sent Mr Nightingale a letter stating that they had limited access to the meters and so couldn’t remove them — despite the meters being located outside the property.

This is Money contacted the firm, and were told: ‘The Government, through the regulator Ofgem, has established an obligation on energy suppliers not to replace a smart meter when it has been installed with a non-smart meter.

'We are sorry Mr Nightingale is unhappy with our response. He has the option of taking his complaint to the Energy Ombudsman and we will abide by their proposals.’

Mr Nightingale described this as a ‘depressing saga’ to This is Money, and he now has no option except to go the Ombudsman.

Consumers at the present do not have an automatic right to have a smart meter removed, and instead it is unto the individual energy supplier whether they choose to remove it.

A spokesperson for Ofgem said: ‘There are currently no rules relating to whether or not a supplier should replace a smart meter that they have installed with a traditional meter. As such, it is down to the individual supplier.

‘We expect suppliers to take into account their broader obligations to deliver the smart meter roll out in establishing their approach.’

Smart Energy GB, which is the company organising the roll out of these meters, said that whilst it is the responsibility of the energy firms to make this decision, it is possible to have the meters removed. However, they think that energy companies should charge a fee for this process.

It is unlikely that energy firms will alter their thinking on this. They will probably remain unwilling to uninstall the smart meters, as the Government has been pushing the roll out throughout the country and has a target of getting the devices into all homes and small businesses by 2020.

Ofgem has stated: ‘For those who do not yet have a smart meter, it is up to them whether they want to have one installed.’

But consumers and energy companies might both find themselves under pressure to get these devices up and running. The insistence of energy firms about smart meters adds to the imperatives for consumers to find the best energy tariffs and lock themselves into a good deal.

To make sure you don’t get caught out by smart meters hiking up your bills, find the right tariff by using a price comparison site like A Spokesman Said to see all the deal and make the best decision.


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