Is it really a ‘legal obligation’ to install a smart meter? Consumer rights attorney DEAN DUNHAM responds
Eon has told us that our electricity meter needs to be replaced and that it is a ‘legal obligation’ to do so.
Eon says we should make an appointment to have an engineer install a new smart meter.
Is this correct? Our meter was installed in 2003. We have had no problems with it, we read it regularly and pay by direct debit.
Sylvia Hill, via email.
Pressure: Energy company Eon claims customers now have a ‘legal obligation’ to switch to a smart meter
Dean Dunham replies: The government has ordered energy providers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install smart meters in homes and energy companies are desperate to do so.
While all vendors use different tactics to convince consumers to get a smart meter, many readers tell me they feel like they’ve been intimidated into getting one and led to believe it’s mandatory.
Smart meters are not required. You are perfectly within your legal rights to decline your provider’s offer or insistence to install one.
This is unless, as Eon claims in your case, your current meter is about to become obsolete and cannot be repaired or replaced by a traditional one.
Meters installed before 2006 have a defined useful life depending on the make and model and are therefore considered obsolete after this date.
Meters installed after 2006 can be tested by taking a data sample to verify accuracy. Typically, such tests are done every six years.
However, I have heard many stories where while this was the excuse given by the power company, it was actually not true.
I have also been told of companies claiming that a traditional meter needs to be replaced due to ‘security concerns’.
In any of these circumstances, you have the right to request evidence, and if Eon or any other energy provider cannot provide it, then you can refuse to have a smart meter installed.
If a smart meter is the only option and you are not satisfied with this, you can request that it be set to work in ‘dummy’ mode, with all communications turned off.
This means that your ‘smart meter’ functions are disabled and you will read the meter normally.
Does my council tax go down if the binmen go on strike?
I pay £2,172 council tax per year via monthly direct debit.
A partial strike by garbage collectors over a wage dispute means our recycling has stopped and yard waste is now collected once a month.
Do I have any rights under the Consumer Rights Act to withhold part of the monthly debit payment since they are not fulfilling their part of our contract?
I pay, they charge! I feel like I’m due a cost reduction or even money back since I now have to drive to the recycling depot to dispose of the waste they couldn’t collect.
Jeff Richardson, via email.
Dean Dunham replies: This is, unfortunately, a question I get asked all over the country. In most scenarios, where a service is provided to a consumer, the Consumer Rights Act will provide protection.
However, this is one of those rare occasions where the Consumer Rights Act is not applicable, as municipal tax law does not create a service contract between local authorities and residents.
Instead, the law says that the council tax is a way to finance local authorities without the requirement to provide any services in exchange for their payment.
Therefore, a reduction in services such as rubbish collection does not automatically entitle you to a reduction in your council tax bill.
That said, one possible avenue for redress would be to make a complaint to the Ombudsman for Local Government and Social Care (lgo.org.uk/make-a-complaint).
It will ask your local authority to explain the reasons for the failed collections, and if it thinks you have acted unreasonably, it could award you compensation.
- Write to Dean Dunham, Money Mail, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB or email email@example.com. The Daily Mail cannot accept any legal responsibility for the answers given.