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Our energy supplier is constantly emailing us to install a smart meter.
It says it is a “legal requirement” as our meter is at the end of its useful life.
Do we have to comply? If we don’t, can our energy company cut off our electricity? SH
At the meter: suppliers have an obligation to install smart meters, but they do not have to accept it
This Is Money’s Angharad Carrick responds: Smart meters were introduced in 2011 as a way to help households stay in control of their energy bills and, in turn, keep them low.
They are installed in homes to replace more traditional meters, including prepaid key meters. Suppliers say they provide more accurate and up-to-date readings, so customers only pay for the energy they have consumed.
More than 30 million homes now have a working smart meter and the Government plans to have devices in 80 per cent of homes by 2025.
But not everyone wants them. Some households have complained about inaccurate readings resulting in sky-high bills and prefer to take the readings themselves.
Why are smart meters installed?
The Government has ordered energy suppliers to take “all reasonable steps” to install smart meters.
The data is primarily used to provide your supplier with access to your energy usage to ensure accurate billing and address any issues with your supply.
If you give permission, providers can also use your data to offer you new products, such as a smart rate that charges different amounts at different times.
An Economy 7 electricity tariff, which comes with an Economy 7 meter, gives you a cheaper electricity rate for seven hours at night, off-peak, and a higher rate during the day.
This means you pay less for your energy use during the night (typically between midnight and 7am) and more for energy used during the day.
Suppliers will usually contact households to let them know when they need to install such a meter, but you can also request one.
Suppliers can also provide a display at home that will tell you your energy consumption in pounds and pence. This data is also available online or in an app, if your provider has one.
However, there have been problems with the implementation of smart meters. Some readers have told This is Money that their bills do not accurately reflect their energy use.
Other households have said they feel intimidated to get one and have been led to believe it is mandatory.
Is it necessary to install a smart meter?
Smart meters are not mandatory and it is up to you to install one.
Your provider will likely offer you one if you don’t already have one, but you have the right to decline.
If you refuse, remember that you won’t have access to all energy rates, meaning you could end up paying more for your energy than you would otherwise.
However, your supplier will insist on installing a smart meter if your current meter is about to become obsolete and cannot be repaired or replaced with another non-smart meter.
Most non-smart meters are no longer manufactured.
Suppliers are also required to install a smart meter if the old meter is deemed unsafe.
However, you have the right to request proof, and if your supplier does not provide it, you can reject a smart meter.
How energy companies treat smart meters
I have checked with major suppliers if they allow their customers to opt out of a smart meter.
Octopus Energy says it is not necessary to have a smart meter installed, but recommends customers do so.
Its website informs its clients: ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain standard accountants. They are slowly becoming obsolete as fewer and fewer manufacturers make them and fewer people want them. If your standard meter breaks down, it could be difficult (for any supplier) to find another standard meter to replace it.’
British Gas offers non-smart meters but charges a fee “to balance customer preferences with the costs of supplying non-smart meters as they are no longer manufactured”.
Scottish Power also said customers could choose between smart and traditional meters, while existing meters remained fully operational.
“Manufacturers have largely stopped producing traditional meters, meaning there will be circumstances where only one smart meter will be available for your installation.”
If your traditional meter has reached the end of its useful life as indicated by your supplier, you may need to install a smart meter.
If you are not happy with your data being automatically sent to your provider, there is another option.
Some providers allow you to set your smart meter to “dumb” mode, which disables the “smart” functionality.
Octopus Energy said this means its meter will work like a standard meter and will not automatically take readings, but the company will not physically remove the smart meter.
EDF says: “While we would accommodate the customer’s request to install a smart meter in silent mode where the scenario allows, we would encourage them to have the meter running in smart mode to access benefits such as understanding their energy usage and having the meter readings counters are taken automatically.’
Have you been told that you must have a smart meter after your traditional meter reaches the end of its useful life? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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