Home Money How millions of us could be suffering from overload with our smart meters

How millions of us could be suffering from overload with our smart meters

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Inaccurate: Industry regulation cites that smart meters have a “tolerance level of between +3% and -3.5% of actual usage.”

Smart energy meters allow utility companies to “overcharge” more than £50 a year on top of the gas and electricity you use, Money Mail can reveal.

There are 34.8 million smart meters installed in the UK, and users are unaware that industry regulation cites meters as having a “tolerance level of between +3 per cent and -3.5 per cent of actual usage.” “.

This means that the customer can be charged 3 percent more on an invoice or 3.5 percent less on an invoice than the amount used, and this is not sleight of hand, but is stated in the fine print of customer billing.

According to industry regulator Ofgem, the average monthly energy bill is £153. So, with a margin of error of 3 per cent, a typical household could pay an extra £4.60 a month or more than £55 a year, adding up to £2,750 over a lifetime of paying bills.

Energy users have been writing to Money Mail with concerns about the accuracy of their bills and then being charged a fee (up to £192) if they want a smart meter to be tested and found to be working.

Inaccurate: Industry regulation cites that smart meters have a “tolerance level of between +3% and -3.5% of actual usage”

One in ten smart meters are no longer working properly, according to research published by the Government last month.

Most of these have become “dumb” so they must be read manually like a traditional meter. However, in some cases they have given wildly inaccurate figures.

Artist Grayson Perry was hit with a £39,000 electricity bill by EDF Energy late last year instead of the usual £300, due to an “erroneous” smart meter reading.

We asked electrician Mike Redfern-Jones why this might be happening. He has been installing electricity meters, including smart meters since they were introduced eight years ago, for four decades.

Redfern-Jones, who lives in Denbigh, North Wales, says: “There is no reason why smart electricity meters should not be completely accurate.

“They simply measure how many kilowatts of energy are used in an hour using a digital reader.

‘The installed microchip circuit boards should work perfectly without any measurement variation.

“Only traditional flywheel-type meters contain physical parts that can wear out over many years and where there can be a small discrepancy, and even this can take decades to show differences. In my experience, older devices that perform poorly tend to underestimate rather than overestimate usage.’

The energy giants appear to be taking advantage of old rules set by the Government’s former National Office of Measurement and Regulation, established more than a decade ago, before smart meters were introduced.

It says: “Electricity meters are considered “accurate” if the allowable margins of error do not exceed +2.5 percent to -3.5 percent over the entire load range for which the meter is designed to operate.” . For gas, the allowable meter variation is +3 percent to -3 percent.

Suppliers have been citing this allowance when customers check their bills and demanding up to £192 as a call-out charge if they find there is no problem with the meter.

Jon Walker, 73, from Warwickshire, a smart meter customer, says: “Perhaps we should all start paying 97 per cent of our gas and electricity bill to combat overcharging.”

The retired engineer discovered his gas bill was rising last summer, despite turning off the gas.

He called supplier Shell Energy (acquired by Octopus Energy last December) in June to report a fault with its meters which had previously worked fine when installed a year earlier.

“They told me there was no problem with the meter and that if I called them they would charge me £168 if they found out there was no problem,” he says. ‘They acted like bullies.

Overload risk: Customers using smart meters may be charged 3% more on a bill or 3.5% less on a bill than the actual amount used.

Overload risk: Customers using smart meters may be charged 3% more on a bill or 3.5% less on a bill than the actual amount used.

So I asked a gas engineer friend to turn off my gas for a couple of days. The gauge continued to show that he was using gasoline. Then Shell came and replaced the meter for free and the problem was solved.

‘Initially Shell refunded me £200 for overstating the bill, but after I complained again it magically recalculated and said I was owed £450. I also received compensation of £150.

Jon says his annual energy bill was typically £1,800, but he was told consumption was “approximately six times higher” than the previous year due to incorrect meter readings.

Had he not taken his own action and called his bluff, the annual bill could have soared to £10,800. No explanation was provided for the “erroneous readings.”

Jeremy Barrett, 83, is another of those concerned about the accuracy of smart meters, despite being told by Octopus Energy that there is nothing wrong with their equipment.

Overloaded: Artist Grayson Perry hit with £39,000 bill from EDF Energy due to 'wrong' smart meter reading

Overloaded: EDF Energy stung artist Grayson Perry with £39,000 bill due to ‘wrong’ smart meter reading

The retired director of a security company in Wimbledon, south-west London, is one of those who must climb a ladder if he wants to take his own readings.

“Despite my requests, no one is willing to come and check that the smart electricity meter is working properly, but my bills have doubled to £600 a month since the meters were installed,” he says.

Jeremy, who was once a broadcaster, says he was also unimpressed when they sent him a complementary £60 electric blanket as a “vulnerable” customer, rather than sending someone to see it.

He says: ‘I used to be in the SAS arm of the British Army. I don’t need to go to bed.

Octopus Energy says it has received regular readings remotely from its meter since installing it in 2020. It adds that it has “verified your energy usage and can confirm it is in line with previous years.”

The £13.5 billion smart meter rollout began in 2016 and one has been installed in 35 million homes and businesses. They represent 61 percent of all meters used.

A key reason energy companies are interested in installing smart meters is that it saves them money because they no longer have to go out and read customers’ meters.

They also come with separate portable displays that allow customers to see in near real time how much energy is being used.

Octopus Energy said: “The tolerance for an accurate smart meter is part of national smart meter legislation, and is not specific to us.”

EDF Energy said accuracy standards are set by Ofgem. British Gas said all its meters were approved and certified by the Office of Product Safety and Standards. Scottish Power, Eon and Ovo Energy did not respond.

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