Homeowners who waited THREE YEARS to have faulty smart meters repaired
As bills soar, tracking your energy usage has never been more important. With that in mind, Money Mail last week posed the question: Is it finally time to get a smart meter?
Well, readers have now had their say – and their answer is a resounding “no”.
Smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your supplier to ensure billing accuracy. Households are also given a small monitor which should show how much energy they are using in real time.
Overflow: Our mailbag has been filled with letters and emails from readers who say their smart meter gadgets just aren’t fit for purpose
Yet over the past week, our mailbag has been filled with letters and emails from readers who say their gadgets just don’t fit.
Many claim the installation was botched or the technology never worked because the mobile signal where they live is too weak.
Others are furious because the monitors that are supposed to help them stay on top of usage are faulty and consistently displaying the wrong information.
Some vendors have even failed to update the figures displayed to reflect the price increase. As a result, customers are hit with larger than expected bills.
And despite customers harassing to upgrade their meter, vendors have shown little interest in addressing these issues – with one reader forced to wait three years for a replacement.
It’s no wonder households are furious that the cost of deployment – which has already topped £13billion – is being added to their bills.
As one reader put it, “With the need to replace obsolete and faulty meters, the costs are rising so perhaps they should be borne by the profits of the energy providers.”
Money Mail was so concerned about the volume of your complaints that we handed over a file to industry watchdog Ofgem for further investigation.
A spokesperson for the regulator said: ‘We thank Money Mail for this information. Consumer protection is our top priority and we want customers to experience the benefits that smart meters can bring.
“We regularly engage with suppliers and take enforcement action when appropriate.”
Smart meters work on 2G and 3G networks – older versions of systems that connect your mobile phone to the internet when you’re not using a WiFi connection.
But experts say that plan has always been flawed because it can be difficult for the signal to penetrate some buildings, especially those with thick walls.
A reader told Money Mail that an EDF Energy engineer said it would still be difficult to install a smart meter in his 1950s property because of the way it was built. Rural areas can be problematic due to a lack of network coverage.
And another Mail reader, Steve Fletcher, has never been able to get his gas meter working since he first installed the device and has regularly reported the problem.
Its provider, Bulb, claims that it is due to a poor mobile signal.
Deployment: Smart meter issues will only get worse as telcos prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with faster 4G and 5G networks by 2033
The 71-year-old woman from Leeds said: ‘My neighbor is also with Bulb and she has the same problem with her meter that she has had for two years.
“It looks like the deployment was rushed. They had so many things to do that they didn’t order them properly.
As with everything in life, if a company gives you something that is faulty, it needs to be replaced or repaired.
After being contacted by Money Mail, Bulb agreed to reinstall a new meter at Mr Fletcher’s home.
However, the energy company says this won’t be possible if the problem is with signage.
My gas bill was triple what the meter showed
Shock: Jane McMahon’s UK gas bill was three times higher than her smart meter predicted
Joan McMahon, left, was horrified when her UK gas bill was three times higher than her smart meter predicted.
The 72-year-old, from south London, had the device installed in January. It correctly read the amount of energy used, but had not taken into account a change in tariff prices, which meant that the amount she had to pay was incorrect on the screen.
Jane says: ‘We get bills every couple of years so it took us until May to realize that. I was horrified.
“Our gas alone was £600 – I was expecting £200, based on our meter readings.”
After being contacted by Money Mail, British Gas arranged to update the tariff details on Jane’s meter.
Dozens of households say they were told the day they were installed that the technology might not work, with engineers warning of rising complaints.
In one of the worst cases, a 93-year-old Ovo customer lost her electricity supply after getting a smart meter. She had to pay £118.80 to an electrician, who said the installer failed to turn on two control switches.
She told Money Mail: ‘My husband and I cannot afford to lose this amount of money through no fault of ours.
A spokesperson for Ovo said the money has since been refunded.
Readers say they are also struggling to get broken smart meters fixed despite vendors suing.
Energy companies have been given strict installation targets that they must meet or risk heavy fines. But once the device is installed, households say they feel they are no longer a priority.
British Gas customer Pat Thwaites has been waiting three years for her smart meter to be replaced. In the meantime, she has to rely on someone from the company to take readings from her old meter, which she can’t reach.
The 83-year-old, from Essex, says: ‘It would be really helpful to know what I spend on my gas and electricity. Every time I call British Gas they tell me something different.
The supplier admits that his complaints have not been followed up. It will install new meters next month.
Pensioner Sue Thurley, from Ware, Hertfordshire, says her gas display monitor never worked and does not show how much she is spending.
She says, “The situation has caused a lot of anxiety for my husband and me.
“I’m sick of phoning and emailing Scottish Power all the time asking them to fix it. But we are afraid of ending up with a big bill.
A Scottish Power spokesperson said: ‘We regret any inconvenience Ms Thurley has suffered. We arranged for an engineer to replace his faulty meter.
Peace of mind: smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your supplier to ensure billing accuracy
Problems with smart meters will only get worse as telecom companies prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with faster 4G and 5G networks by 2033. Experts warn this could lead to shutdown operation of millions of devices.
Nick Hunn, of wireless consultancy WiFore, says: “In 2012, energy companies were told they were designing equipment with technology that was already becoming obsolete. But they were like rabbits in the headlights.
It comes after vendors were criticized for initially installing millions of older Smets1 devices in homes, which “go dumb” if you switch vendors. They are currently rolling out a new Smets2 model, which should continue to work.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We are working with industry to ensure smart gas and electricity meters can stay in place as we move away from 2G and 3G networks.
A spokesperson for campaign body Smart Energy GB said: ‘The vast majority of smart meters are working as they should.
“The rollout of smart meters is the biggest upgrade to our energy system in a generation, so it’s inevitable that there will be temporary technical issues to resolve along the way.”
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