Posted: Mon 27th May 2024

Millions missing out on smart meter benefits due to faults and poor supplier service, warns Citizens Advice

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Despite over half of British homes now having a smart meter, new research from Citizens Advice suggests millions of households are being let down by meter problems suppliers are failing to fix.

The charity says new rules are needed to ensure energy suppliers identify and fix problems as quickly as possible.

Citizens Advice is particularly worried that people could end up with huge unexpected bills if their supplier isn’t able to take an automatic reading for an extended period of time.

Among the key findings:

  • 20% of households with a smart meter – 2.86 million households – still had to regularly submit manual meter readings because their device isn’t doing that automatically
  • Nearly a third (31%) experienced issues with their in-home display (IHD) -the screen that helps people track their energy usage and costs
  • A quarter of people who asked Citizens Advice for help with smart meter issues had billing problems
  • Those unhappy with installations were nearly two-thirds less likely to adopt smart energy services and products critical for net zero, like time-of-use tariffs and heat pumps

Meter problems have led to some racking up debt due to readings not being sent automatically. In some cases, shock £1,000+ catch-up bills were sent to customers after meters went unchecked by suppliers for over a year.

Current rules allow suppliers to back bill customers for a whole year, whether they have a smart meter or not. Citizens Advice says this period must now be cut to 6 months for smart meters to avoid year-long catch up bills caused if meters fail to send readings.

The tip of the iceberg

Government figures show by the end of last year over 10% of smart meters weren’t working properly. Citizens Advice says this is just the tip of the iceberg – its new research suggests even more households are actually struggling with a whole range of meter issues, such as having to give regular manual readings or issues with their in-home display.

The charity wants suppliers to be forced to meet new Guaranteed Standards of Performance, which would ensure the causes of smart meter issues are diagnosed in a timely manner and a repair plan put in place. If suppliers don’t meet these standards, affected consumers would be automatically compensated.

It also wants to make sure consumers aren’t left waiting in limbo when suppliers blame issues on the Data Communications Company, which is responsible for the data network the tech relies on, leaving smart users unable to get some issues resolved directly.

When things go wrong, consumers often struggle to find out what the problem is, who’s responsible and how long it will take to fix it. Citizens Advice wants to close what it calls an “accountability gap” between suppliers and the Data Communications Company, so all issues can be diagnosed in a timely manner.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The whole point of smart meters is to empower households to save energy and money, but in reality millions are missing out on those benefits due to problems with technology and poor supplier service.

“Energy companies are very keen for customers to get a smart meter but when issues arise they are often nowhere to be found. That has to change.

“Suppliers have been far too sluggish in fixing issues with problem meters. New obligations and stronger accountability measures are needed to restore public trust in this vital tool to reach net zero.”

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