Households pressured into getting smart meters

30 January 2018
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Households are being unfairly pressured into getting smart meters, according to complaints received by Citizens Advice, which runs the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) helpline.

Issues seen by the CTSI include households being given so-called ‘deemed appointments’ – where suppliers say they’re coming to install smart meters without giving consumers a chance to opt out.  

Other complaints include communications about smart meters omitting the fact they’re not compulsory.

As a result, the CTSI has written a letter to industry body Energy UK asking it to remind suppliers not to give the impression to households that smart meters are obligatory. The organisation is concerned suppliers may be breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The CTSI has the power to launch criminal prosecutions against rule breakers.

Steve Playle, lead office for energy at the CTSI told Moneywise: “The industry is under great pressure to install meters by the 2020 deadline, but they’re slipping behind, and as such, they’re finding more and more ‘interesting’ ways to get people to sign up.”

Victoria MacGregor, director of energy at Citizens Advice adds: "We are concerned that some companies are using aggressive sales practices to install smart meters. People have come to Citizens Advice for help because their energy supplier has said they’ll force entry to install a smart meter, or told them that they are required to have one.

"Smart meters are not compulsory and customers shouldn't feel pressured to have one installed if they don't want one.

"We appreciate that suppliers are under pressure to install more smart meters but they have a responsibility to act reasonably towards their consumers and not to use misleading or aggressive sales practices."

E.on and Npower customers not told meters aren’t compulsory

Moneywise has seen examples of such behaviour by energy suppliers. One text we’ve seen, which was sent to an Npower customer who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the provider was due to install a smart meter without the customer requesting one, and without stating that the scheme isn’t compulsory or how to opt out.

The text message says: “Hello! We are due to attend your property on behalf of Npower to fit Smart meters on 30/01/2018. Please call us today on [number has been blanked out by Moneywise] to confirm or rearrange your appointment.”

We raised this with Npower and the firm told Moneywise: “While smart meters bring many benefits to consumers, they are not compulsory and customers are not forced to have one. Customers who are offered an appointment but don’t want a smart meter can contact us to cancel their appointment.

“This specific message relates to a reminder to the customers who have not confirmed, rescheduled or cancelled an existing appointment. These are sent via SMS or email as part of the follow up process.

“When the initial appointment communications are sent via the customer’s preferred channel, they are given options on how they respond to the proposed appointment date and time, including the option to cancel the appointment.”

However, while Npower says the message is a follow-up text, the reader is adamant that it was the first communication they’d received on smart meters. About a week later they did receive a follow-up email from Npower, which again Moneywise has seen. While this did contain more information about smart meters, again it only gave the customer the opportunity to ‘confirm’ or ‘change’ their appointment – not to cancel it. 

Other letters Moneywise has seen, which were sent to an E.on customer who wishes to remain anonymous, include the following statements: “Your meter is being phased out. Please go online or call us to book your appointment… We need to install smart meters in all homes as part of a nationwide upgrade programme.

“We need to change your meter… Your electricity meter is an old model that we need to replace with our free self-reading smart meter.”

Nowhere in either letter did it state that smart meters were not compulsory or how customers could opt out of having them installed.

When we put this to E.on, a spokesman told us: “We’re obliged to contact our customers about upgrading their classic meters with a new self-reading smart meter to support our commitment to Ofgem.

“While smart meters are not compulsory, we firmly believe smart meters offer a number of significant benefits for customers, including bringing an end to estimated bills and the ability to gain a greater understanding of their energy use which can help them lower their energy consumption. If a customer does not want a smart meter then they can contact us.”

E.on adds that if a customer needs a meter replaced for safety or legal reasons, they can opt for a classic meter instead of a smart meter.

Suppliers must be ‘transparent’ when communicating with customers

When we raised this issue of customers being pressured into getting a smart meter with energy regulator Ofgem, it told us suppliers must treat customers fairly and be “transparent and accurate”. However, it has no open investigations into domestic smart meter wrong-doing at the time of writing.   

An Energy UK spokesperson says: “Energy companies are committed to meeting the government’s deadline of ensuring all households and businesses are offered a smart meter by 2020.

“Energy companies will be adopting various methods of communication with their customers to increase engagement and enable as many people as possible to experience the benefits that smart meters bring.”

What are smart meters?

Smart meters are the energy gadget being offered and installed in every household that wants one across England, Scotland and Wales by 2020.

By the end of the programme, which began in 2016, around 53 million smart meters will be fitted in over 30 million premises, according to the government – which is spearheading the scheme.

The idea behind them is that they should make energy bills far more accurate than at present where they are estimated.

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

lots of valuable information, but still can't find out how to actually opt out anywhere, as the txt from the suppliers just said they are coming to fit a smart meter, and to make a time that suits. I have txt my supplier but am not confident that it will mean very much.Where can I find details on what to actually do to make it official on my part.If you could even just point me in the right direction.I thank you in anticipation .

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Whilst EDF did not pressure me to have smart meter fitted it did not highlight the problems until the meters were fitted.It could not fit the most up to date meter, which would have enabled me to change companies without changing the meter, apparently because of the problems with the newer technology.It would not do away with meter readings as these would still have to be done every two years.When the technician came he was only able to fit the electric meter and the gas pipe was of 'industrial' size which needed a different fitting and a 'more qualified' technician. When the new meter was eventually fitted, having been seen by several more senior EDF employees, they put a pressure test on the system and I was told there was a leak on the system into the house and could not connect the meter. It showed a 5 on their test meter which was unacceptable, whereas if it had been a 4 and no smell of gas it would have been OK. This was at the beginning of December when it was cold so no heating, gas hob nor gas fires.I then had to make my own arrangements to have the leak sorted out. As all the pipework ran through concrete throughout the house it could not be renewed so new pipes had to be run round the outside of the house and through the ceiling to the boiler. The engineers doing this remedial work said they had had to deal a considerable number of similar problems. Would I have had a smart meter fitted if I had known of these problems? Would you?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

my energy supplier OVO has just told me that if I don't have a the new meters installed that my new contract due at the end of july 2018 will cost me over £100 /per year more than a customer who agrees to have a meter fitted this over and above the normal increase with the rising prices my tariff has always been a on-line tariff and I always send my meter readings in at the end of every period I have never complained about the adjustments OVO make to my direct payment and I am currently over £900 in credit

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have entered into a 'smart April 2019' tariff with First Utlity and am advised that I signed to have a 'smart meter' fitted within six months of receiving supply, can they make me have one and can I refuse if it's not the latest model ie. not SMETS1, as I will probably switch to a new tariff when their deal expires and do not want to be 'cut off'. Thank you.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've been told that, once a smart meter is installed , customers are not allowed to change their supplier but must stick with the supplier who installed the smart meter. Is this true ? If so, it's not widely advertised either.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Anglian Water changed my water meter to a smart meter without even contacting me. The meter is in airing cupboard which is in middle of bungalow next to bedrooms, one day a guy came to door when I was in bed ill and said he had been sent by Anglian Water to fit new meter, I was not told it was a smart meter untill after it had been fitted then I was told they could read it from a van at the road side and not need to enter property. This could have been very distressing to some old people living alone like me. I object to smart meters for gas and electricity as they can be used to their advantage and does not reduce my bills as I have had an energy monitor installed for years and is ignored after first few weeks, they are almost useless.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Believe that I've been duped into having a smart meter fitted by SSE. I do not have an indoor meter that tells me how much certain appliances are using but an outside meter was fitted last summer which looks very different to those l am used to. It was not made clear as to what type of meter it was. l am an elderly, disabled widow and l feel that SSE think that they can take advantage of my disposition. I have since changed my utility supplier . l certainly don't want a smart meter as l believe this is a rouse by the government to take control of utility services but they can only do that if everyone has a smart meter. Am l entitled to have the meter changed back to the old style if a smart meter was fitted without my permision?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

CAN WE BE FORCED TO CHANGE OUR ANALOGUE METER FOR A SMART METER WHICH WE DON'T WANT BY SSE AND DO WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO CANCEL THE APPOINTMENT AND GET TAKEN OFF THE SMART METER LIST OR OPT OUT?Can we be forced to change our Analogue Meter if it works? (and it does)and not have it replaced by a SSE Smart Meter? Can we cancel this appointment and not be pressured into agreeing any new appointment date. Would it be better to Cancel by e-mail? Speak to an adviser on the Telephone or even write an old fashioned Letter.Couldn't we just keep our current Analogue Meter or does it have to be replaced by a digital meter? (For safety or any other legal reason?) My father does not want a smart meter but i Fear that they have conned him and will bring one anyway. After the Letter he received He was on the Phone to the company SSE but I think that they took advantage of him as I read this account and it was just like my fathers experience. A retired engineer Saverio said that he felt duped in the Phone call he felt Flustered throughout the phone call and the adviser just kept talking over him. (They did the same thing to my Father).. What they did to him He expected a like for like replacement but was greeted by a smart meter adviser who thanked him for requesting the new technology. Because my Father didn't tell them that he didn't want a smart meter I think they will take advantage and do the same thing. can we stop any new meter and stick with the Analogue one. The letter he got said that when you book your meter replacement lets us know if you would rather not upgrade to a smart meter you don't have to we will fit a Standard Meter for you instead. Can we trust them? and would this be(as it states) a standard meter be an Analogue or Digital and if so would this be a sneaky so called Dumb meter but still a smart meter? Any advice or help on this would ease my troubled mind I am so concerned for his health and the rest of the family. Thanking you in advance for any help and advice

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have also been pestered to install one of the meters by N Power. It stars of by missing a reading before the bill is due , then send an email telling you need never need to have an estimated bill again by installing one of these meters . It happens twice a year, obviously they want to reduce there costs by ruling out the meter reader., so some poor person finds there self's out of a job. Is there any saving to the customer not a chance, profits come first nothing else matters. I have been with N Power and NEEB before, for many years still on the standard rate pay full price for electricity , never switched supplier. pay my bills quarterly . Savings can supposedly be made by useing direct debit but now a pensioner don't always have the funds in my account to pay this way . Changing suppliers doesn't seem to save a lot as soon as the term is up , bang goes the benifits. Then look around for another supplier. The merry go round continues.. Once upon a time the electricity, and gas, water companies were happy to make a few million pounds profit not the huge profits that is been made as they are a private company and can dictate the price . The best way forward is to re nationalise these company's as clearly there interests is not for he masses

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My mother received the usual letter saying that a smart meter appointment had been booked. She is 92, frail and not all tech savvy and she has significant mobility and health problems. I said I'd take care of it for her so tried to contact Npower on the number given after 2 waits of 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes I gave up and contacted them via their web chat service. After several attempts to explain the situation they told me that I had to get a signed statement from my mother to say that she doesn't want a smart meter - this requirement they said was due to Data Protection legislation - can this be true is the only way you can declare that you don't want a smart meter is by sending (as an email attachment) a signed statement. I did ask what particular part of the Data Protection legislation this came under but answer came there none. What an appalling level of customer service this is and what a disgraceful way to treat a frail 92 year old lady who has been an Npower customer since they were established.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

nPower still sending out texts and emails giving no opt out option. Trying to telephone either yes or no rings for over 10 m. No chance to opt out or discuss.I shall ignore them unless they respond. Basically the whole Smartness is to nPowers advantage, saves meter readers jobs, nothing in it for me. If I was interested I could get OCD with meter readings

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi, i've just received an email from nPower informing me that an appointment has been made to fit a smart meter with no option to cancel and no info telling me that smart meters are not compulsary - I don't wish to have one installed and being an electrician fully understand their workings. I am an nPower customer and the account number and email address are both correct. However, I feel that the email is designed to be as non-transparent as possible and bordering on sharp practice. I also resent the fact that the onus is place upon me to respond to the email, which I have no intention of doing.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was harassed by EDF when I was their customer. I had constant emails and calls even though I told them that I'd had one installed by my previous company British Gas and thought it was a waste of time until they can all read a universal metre. I didn't complain but left them as soon as possible. The pressure to get one was unreal and disbelief that I didn't want one from them is disrespectful. I had to tell them it was my right to refuse but it was not taken onboard.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Regarding your article about smart meters.I received an unsolicitored appointment from Npower advising they would be attending my property to fit smart meters. I was then pestered by more messages from Npower and their subcontractor reminding me of the appointment and giving me a contact point to amend or change the appointment but no mention of cancelling.This situation was quite ironic as I am coming to the end of a fixed dual fuel contract later this month with Npower so it was suspiciously like their system was trying to snare me with a semi-useless piece of kit which would restrict me moving the contract to my choice of providers after it was fitted. All very devious.This action was definitely outside any reasonable interpretation of the no pressure rule.The whole promotion of these meters is farcical they only save you money if you switch appliances off and use less the savings claim for them is not there just because you have them fitted.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Beware of scottish power,,I changed my economy 7 meter to a one rate meter in April, I told them many times I did not want a smart meter,They told me it defiantly would be a conventional meter not a smart meter,So when actavo came to fit it I said this isnt a smart meter is it,In fact I asked him a few times ,He kept saying no and he would not have one anyway. As he only fitted meter and gave me nothing to go with it I really thought he was telling the truth, But yesterday I thought it was about time I did my meter readings thats when I found out they had conned me and had lied and really fitted a smart meter,The crafty way they did it,has made me so angry,They say they wont change it now as by 2020 everyone has to have one, scottish power lied and the fitter was a big liar to,absolute disgrace,,I have put in a complaint with scottish power ,but doubt they will do anything.I just cant believe The lying these companies do to con people,Im so mad

In reply to by Jean Papworth (not verified)

Hi Jean,

Smart meters are not compulsory - you can say no. Whether your energy provider fits SMETS1 or SMETS2 meters depends on the provider, so do check this first.

That said, the tariff you've signed up to requires a smart meter to be installed to access it. If you feel this wasn't made clear, you should complain. You can switch to a non-smart meter tariff but check for early exit fees first.

Best wishes,

Moneywise Helen

In reply to by Jean Papworth (not verified)

Quite a few of the energy suppliers are doing this now Jean...I don't think they can "make you" but it will be there in the small print that you agreed to it. If you refuse they may bump you onto a more expensive tarrif..are the exit fees expensive?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have entered into a 'smart April 2019' tariff with First Utlity and am advised that I signed to have a 'smart meter' fitted within six months of receiving supply, can they make me have one and can I refuse if it's not the latest model ie. not SMETS1, as I will probably switch to a new tariff when their deal expires and do not want to be 'cut off'. Thank you.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

We turned down a smart meter a few months ago and I do regular meter readings etc anyway, but today Npower rang my wife who is account holder and told her she must have a smart meter in 2020 as they are compulsory which I know is a blatant lie but my wife believed them.

In reply to by phoebe mccallum (not verified)

Hi Phoebe,

That is definitely not true. Anyone with a smart meter is free to switch to another supplier, the only issue is that your smart meter may not work with your new supplier, meaning you'll need to revert back to providing your own meter readings until the issue is resolved.

You can find more information on this in our guide: https://www.moneywise.co.uk/household-finances/energy-water/what-to-watc...

Best wishes,

Moneywise Helen

 

In reply to by Jacqueline Devereux (not verified)

It sounds as though you got the same kind of new meter as I did. I specifically stated that I did not want a 'smart' meter, so expected a conventional mechanical meter to be installed. When I looked, the installer had fitted a little digital meter. This may double as a smart meter. but only when combined with a separate transmitter box. I am still requested to supply my own readings and am happy to do so. As long as you still have somebody coming to read your meter and/or your supplier requests you to provide readings, you do not have a 'smart' meter.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Smart meters can cause health problems. They emit Electro Magnetic Fields. It is best not to have one installed.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My mother has had such a letter from her electricity providers. I read it thoroughly last night with her. These gadgets work via a mobile phone signal network, so if you live in an area where coverage is poor (like my mother), they might not be as effective as the authorities would like. The so called benefits of these things are really aimed at multiple occupancy homes,(families) where a lot of energy is being consumed. Elderly folks are already frugal with their power usage, because they have to be, and should not be persuaded to have a techy gadget fitted that they dont understand, or want.It actually involves not just a new electricity meter, (usually located in a cupboard), but another gadget box (modem unit) connected to power somewhere, to transmit the signal to the authorities. My mother justifiably said she didn't want a gadget box in her kitchen, like her neighbour now has, with its neon constantly glowing. Q. what happens when that gadget goes wrong....as gadgets sometimes do?!NO THANKS IS OUR VIEW!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If they were to offer a small discount on the normal tariffs for having a smart meter, rather than wasting money on sending me countless letters and running adverts I would consider one. I think all the benefits are for the electricity company. I find the radio adverts particularly annoying. Are you supposed to stop cooking your stir fry half way through and eat it uncooked having realised it has already cost you 2p which was more than you budgeted ?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Smart meters are not required to avoid estimated bills, except perhaps for those who cannot take and submit their own readings. I’ve not had an estimated bill for many years as I send readings when requested. I even occasionally receive a visit from a meter reader!!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ive had a couple of these installation appointments despite having never registered any interest in having a smart meter..especially the redundant first generation smart meter. I cancelled of course. The next step I'm guessing is notification my current meter has reached the end of its life and needs replacing. Given the fact the " classic" meters have a lifespan of up to 50 years and Ive only had it 10 years..well i wish them luck getting one installed :)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Very interesting read as I have been pestered by FIRST UTILITY to have a smart meter. I have rung them , emailed them and texted them to inform them I do not want a smart meter and it is not law that I have to have one, and they still continue to bombard me. I have told them when my contract is up I will move provider as a result of ignoring my requests. I will not even consider having a smart meter until they can be used across all providers without having to be changed every time you change to a different company.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Readers of this need to be aware of the very powerful EMFs that smart meters emit, and that such EMFs have several potential health risks?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My electricity meter was replaced in 2015. At the time, I was offered - by default - a smart meter. Having read of the vulnerability of these devices to hacking (and the very old data transfer system that underlies this vulnerability), I specifically chose to have a normal meter installed. I expected that another classic meter would be installed, but instead it appears that the installer fitted what is defacto a smart meter, merely excluding the in-house display box. I have regularly provided my own meter readings ever since and am content to continue doing so. However, on a different note, I am very unhappy with the behaviour of the company that reads the meters in my area - I will not name them, but I live in Shropshire and other people in my area may have experienced the same issue and know who the company is. Due to my work patterns, I am often at home during 'normal' hours, hence available to admit a meter reader. On more than one occasion, I have seen a card put through my letter box while I was at home (and awake) telling me to call some expensive phone number to report my readings because I was 'not at home' when the reader called. The readers never return for a second attempt, incidentally. Clearly this is an overt money-making scheme by the meter reading company. I report my readings regularly directly to my energy supplier. If the meter reading company really believed in the duty to 'inspect' my meter, they would make more of an effort to do so, but this particular company obviously does not believe in that duty.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Also tell them the danger of having them fitted. If you don't know you should not be telling them advantages of having them fitted.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Interesting to hear about pressure being put on customers when customers like me who are asking our energy supplier to install one keep getting told they haven't got around to area yet!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

But smart meters aren't more accurate, they just give up-to-date readings compared to infrequent manual readings. At the end of the year, you pay exactly the same.

In reply to by John Phipps (not verified)

So they capped you off due to your pipework having a gas leak that's there duty and they have to do it by law then you had to pay for an engineer to come and repair your leaking pipework what have they done wrong 4mbr is a permissable drop 5mbr is not they could of saved your life

In reply to by linda raine (not verified)

I can only speak for npower but I just phoned them up and opted out...obvs they tried to persuade me but once they realised I wasn't giving in they did stop hassling. I don't believe there is general opt out system across all suppliers I'm afraid :(

In reply to by smiffyuk (not verified)

Hi smiffyuk,

I'd be keen to hear more about this - please could you email helen.knapman@moneywise.co.uk

Thanks,

Moneywise Helen

In reply to by smiffyuk (not verified)

That's Black mail my friend...If it helps Ive just switched to Bulb..they will give you a smart meter if you want one but recommend you don't have one until the second generation meters are ready!! Absolutely no pressure to have one which is refreshing and no financial penalties if you don't take one..win win!

In reply to by Contax (not verified)

Complain and complain and complain. Go to your MP. Go to an ombudsman. In short, make their life hell; it can be a lot of fun.

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