Smart Meters: Dominic Littlewood offers advice to reduce bills
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An energy company has been forced to apologise and offer compensation to smart meter customers who have reportedly been suffering “nightmare” scenarios due to issues with their devices that have left some on different payment plans, and others without power for weeks. OVO Energy has said it “sincerely apologises” for the issues which have left its customers in disarray amid the cost of living crisis.
Several distraught smart meter customers belonging to OVO Energy got in touch with the BBC to share their horror stories.
Audrey Risdon explained said that she feels as though she is living in a nightmare ever since being switched from a smart meter to a prepayment system while she was in hospital. The 81-year-old Hampshire resident has since come out of hospital and been returned to “credit mode” – a cheaper plan – and has been offered £327 in compensation.
But her story inspired many more smart meter customers to get in touch with the BBC. 83year-old Robert Hutchinson, also from Hampshire, paid his bill quarterly by cheque but sent accidentally sent his bill to the wrong address.
This resulted in his electricity getting cut off for 23 days. While OVO has “sincerely apologised” and offered £150 in compensation, the 83-year-old said his fridge has not worked since power was restored. Mr Hutchinson is also now on a pre-payment meter and is relies on his neighbour to purchase top-up cards.
This all comes amid an energy crisis that has forced most households to fork out double the amount to pay their bills compared with last year as wholesale gas costs have surged, having a huge knock-on impact on billpayers.
This is also set to get worse as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced that the Energy Price Guarantee – which caps bills at £2,500 for typical households – will go up to £3000 from April.
While smart meters are devices that are aimed at helping customers soften the blow as they allow you to closely monitor your energy activity in real-time, they have been host to a whole heap of problems amid the crisis.
In a letter sent to The Guardian over the summer, one consumer complained that her meter, run through Shell Energy, had stopped working. She reported that her smart meter became “strangely uncommunicative” shortly before the April 1 tariff increase on gas.
When the publication asked other consumers to send in their complaints about their own smart meters, hundreds of letters began flooding in.
John Curtis, the manager of a residential estate, said: “Smart meters are an absolute scandal – millions were spent, yet the majority here are now useless.
“We have to read almost all of them and are frequently required to provide dated photographs for all phases plus the total, on each meter – sometimes four photos for each reading – since the power companies don’t trust customers to provide accurate readings.
“Another example of taxpayers’ money wasted on a government fantasy, with unproven technology rolled out nationwide with an almost entirely negative result. The money would have been better spent continuing to employ meter readers instead of devolving this increasingly irksome task to customers.”
Another issue with smart meters is that energy companies are able to switch smart meter customers on to prepayment meter plans remotely.
Energy industry regulator Ofgem warned that this can be done at a moments notice and at the simple switch of the button. With prepayment meter plans typically costing more, several energy charities have called for moratorium on all prepayment meter installs this winter.
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Matt Copeland, from the NEA, said: “National Energy Action would like to see a moratorium on all prepayment meter installs this winter. Whether traditional or smart, the rules and safeguards that govern prepayment meter installs are equivalent. Suppliers must ensure that they follow them.”
Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem sent energy companies a stern warning: “Smart meter pre-payment switches are on the increase, and we do monitor that data.
“This should only be when it’s safe and practical to do so, and smart meters should not be switched without those appropriate assessments taking place, including identifying vulnerability.
“Ofgem has written to all suppliers to urgently remind them of their obligations. Where they fail to do so, we will take action against them.”
Express.co.uk has contacted OVO Energy for comment.
If you have had similar issues with your smart meter and would like to share your story with Express.co.uk, please get in touch at [email protected]
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