Are you being blackmailed into getting a smart meter?
Energy customers are being blackmailed into installing smart meters, according to industry experts.
The ironically named smart meters, which may end up costing you more money than you currently dish out each month, are set to be offered to every household in the UK by 2020.
But many of the ‘Big Six’ are now insisting that customers have a smart meter to secure the cheapest deal, according to research by Money Mail.
Those who refuse are often told they can only sign up to a deal that cost hundreds of pounds more.
The cheapest tariff offered by Britain’s biggest supplier, British Gas, costs an average of £954 a year. But the small print reads: ‘By signing up to this tariff you agree you’ll book a smart meter installation appointment within three months.’
Energy companies must offer every household in the UK a smart meter by 2020. Customers can refuse but firms face fines if they cannot prove they have done enough to promote them. Smart meters automatically send meter readings and show customers how much they are spending.
The aim is to end estimated bills and help households reduce costs by cutting consumption.
However, the roll-out has been hit by delays, which has led suppliers to find new ways of tempting customers.
Money Mail has been contacted by Eon customers who say that without a smart meter they must take the company’s standard variable tariff. This is currently £211-a-year more expensive than the firm’s cheapest deal.
A spokesman said: ‘If someone doesn’t wish to have [a smart meter] they will be able explore our other options.’
Npower’s cheapest deal also requires customers to get a smart meter installed. Scottish Power and SSE customers must register an interest in a smart meter when they sign up for the cheapest tariff. But both companies said they are not obliged to install one. EDF Energy is the only firm to make it clear in the small print that customers can opt out of having a smart meter. Meanwhile, other suppliers are luring customers with promises of credits or cashback when they sign up.
But Steve Playle, of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: ‘Blackmailing energy customers with financial incentives has sadly been adopted by much of the industry and it’s only going to get worse.’