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HomeEconomyWhy don't electric companies fix our broken smart meters?

Why don’t electric companies fix our broken smart meters?


Raymond Edgell and his wife Sandra decided to install a smart meter last August.

His old gas and electricity meters at his home in Harefield, near Uxbridge, were in a cupboard under the stairs. And the couple, who are in their 70s, were finding it increasingly annoying to take regular meter readings.

The new ‘smart’ device promised to send readings to his provider, Scottish Power, automatically and ensure his bills were always accurate.

Meter rage: Official figures published yesterday show that 3.2 million customers have smart meters that do not work as they should

Even better, the couple would receive a device with a screen that would show exactly how much energy they were using each day.

But seven months later, the device doesn’t work. In fact, he never has. Raymond, 78, a retired postman, estimates that he has tried to call Scottish Power 150 times in the intervening months without success.

Official figures released yesterday show that you are one of 3.2 million customers whose smart meter is not working as it should.

Money Mail’s postal bag is packed with letters from readers who, try as they might, just can’t persuade their energy provider to fix their faulty meters.

Some have been left for months with broken smart meters, with no way of knowing how much gas and electricity they are using until a bill arrives.

Others say that your device is stuck in “display mode”. This means it hasn’t been set up and therefore isn’t connected to your account and doesn’t show how much power you’re using.

Some say their meter never worked due to weak mobile signal or failed installations, while we are seeing more and more cases of monitors showing wildly incorrect readings.

Even on meters that display correct usage information, some owners find that the readings are not being sent to their provider, forcing them to submit manual readings anyway.

In January, British Gas admitted that 4,000 customers had been affected by a flaw in the smart meter that was unlikely to be fixed until June.

No service: Raymond Edgell and his wife Sandra's smart meter never worked properly and their supplier Scottish Power still hasn't replaced it after seven months

No service: Raymond Edgell and his wife Sandra’s smart meter never worked properly and their supplier Scottish Power still hasn’t replaced it after seven months

Edgell’s in-home smart meter was not installed correctly, Raymond says. It is permanently stuck in display mode and incorrectly shows the couple’s daily spending as £1.66.

“I call every day, often up to three times, but they cut me off,” he says. It doesn’t matter the day you call or the time, the recorded message always says that they are busy. I do not know what else to do. Getting a smart meter has been a big mistake.

“Sandra is scared to death that a huge bill of thousands of pounds is going to fall through the door.”

When Money Mail raised its case with Scottish Power, a spokesperson said it would investigate as a priority, and that the problem appeared to be caused by the smart meter being linked to a different property address.

The government aims to have a smart meter in every home by 2025 and has set strict installation targets for energy companies, which they must comply with or face large fines.

But experts say the result has been that power companies have prioritized new installations over fixing broken devices, hence the huge delays and lack of help for homeowners like Raymond.

There is also little incentive for companies to rectify faults, as energy watchdog Ofgem does not track how long it takes providers to repair devices.

According to figures released yesterday by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, almost 3.2 million of the 31.3 million smart meters installed in homes and small businesses across the UK are operating in so-called ‘traditional mode’.

This is when the meter is no longer automatically providing readings to the energy provider.

Push: The government aims to have a smart meter in every home by 2025 and has set strict installation targets for energy companies, which they must comply with or face large fines.

Push: The government aims to have a smart meter in every home by 2025 and has set strict installation targets for energy companies, which they must comply with or face large fines.

Consumer advocate Martyn James says: ‘Vulnerable people have been unable to take advantage of energy saving schemes because they got stuck on old meters, or were left with incorrect bills due to metering errors with smart meters.

“We urgently need a priority system so that those who need it most or who are in financial difficulty fix their meter problems first.”

Veterinary surgeon Nigel Taylor had to re-email his meter readings to EDF after his device suddenly stopped working after 18 months.

The Plymouth father-of-two says, “I’ve always been on top of my energy usage, but one day I hit my smart meter and it wasn’t showing any data.”

This was in October 2021 and Nigel has yet to be able to get a replacement device.

Nigel, 70, says: ‘I’ve been offered goodwill gestures, but I feel like I’m being cheated.

“I’m being bombarded by smart meter ads, but I have a smart meter and I want to use it, but it’s not working.”

Energy companies began installing the first generation of smart meters, known as Smets1, in 2013. But millions of these devices stopped working if customers switched providers.

Smets2, the newest model, is now being rolled out to all homes, which means meters shouldn’t lose their smart features if homes switch providers.

All remaining first-generation meters, some of which are reaching a decade, are being remotely upgraded to the new network.

Smart meters work on mobile signal, so people who live in particular areas with poor signal or in buildings with thick walls may find that the meter simply doesn’t work.

Sally Jones, 69, was hassled by her then energy company for a year before she agreed to install a smart meter at her home near Derby.

The retired math teacher has been fighting since June 2021 to get the device to work.

He has since switched to EDF, but is still unable to track his spending as the home display unit no longer exists.

Sally says, ‘Every month since September, my monthly bill has gone up.

“Before all the price hikes, I was paying about £100 a month. In December I was billed £384 and had no idea why the bill was so high.

You can’t use the meter to track which devices in your house use the most energy.

I am totally frustrated. I’ve been around the house and unplugged everything. I only turn on my microwave when I’m going to use it and I’ve unplugged all phones.’

After the intervention of Money Mail, EDF fixed Sally’s display unit and paid £75 in compensation. She is investigating Nigel’s case.


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