Your Rights as a Customer
The UK Government requires energy suppliers to install smart meters for their customers, and is setting out rules to ensure that they do this in a way that is in the interests of customers, including rules around:
- data access
- technical standards for the smart metering equipment
- meeting the needs of vulnerable customers.
Smart Meters will be rolled out as standard across the country by 2020. But there will not be a legal obligation on individuals to have one.
Energy companies will be required to install smart meters and take all reasonable steps to reach everyone. However energy companies will not take legal action to fit a smart meter if they cannot get the householder’s co-operation.
The government is ensuring that appropriate customer protection provisions are put in place:
- there will be no sales during the installation visit
- smart meter installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit and they will need the customer’s permission in advance of the visit if they are to talk to them about their own products
- protecting the privacy of individuals and putting them in control of smart meter data.
Should you want to check how suppliers have to behave towards customers during the Smart Metering roll-out the rules are detailed in the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP).
You will have a choice about how your energy consumption data is used, apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes such as theft detection.
You will be able to see your real-time energy consumption data on your In Home Display. At least 13 months’ of measurement data taken at half hourly intervals will be available for you to download through your home network, should you wish to, although no devices have been design for this service yet.
Your energy company, and the energy networks, will be able to see enough of the data to allow them to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.
You will also be able to share data with third parties (such as switching sites) if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you, should you wish to.
Consumers should not have any problems switching energy company if they have a smart type meter.
Ofgem have published new regulations to deal with smart type meters. These include obligations on energy companies to make sure the smart functions of the meter are still available, and to make clear to customers where they will not be, on change of supplier.
The meter can still be used as a traditional meter if the new energy company cannot support the smart functionality at this stage.
You can also ask your supplier to turn off the ‘smart’ functionality in your Smart Meter, which would mean they no longer send messages to it and would ask you to send meter readings, as they would for a traditional meter. They would have to do this, and the regulator Ofgem supports this right.
However this could still leave the communications module switched on, albeit with little traffic, and the rules are not clear on whether you could insist on the communications being totally turned off. It would require a site visit by the supplier and unfortunately, on most models, the communications module cannot be turned off. We suggest you talk your supplier about any concerns you have.
A customer’s right and the rights and obligations of supplier’s have been clearly defined by BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy).
A Customer’s rights:
- To refuse to have a Smart Meter (in later years this will probably mean you have a Smart Meter without a communications module, which will be the closest thing to a traditional meter).
- To refuse daily meter readings.
- Not to agree to half hourly readings.
A Supplier’s rights:
- Suppliers can take a monthly reading without requiring any form of consent from the customer.
- Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer’s consent if they suspect theft is occurring.
- Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer’s consent to produce a final bill if they have changed supplier.
- Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer’s consent to produce a final bill if the people living in a premises have changed.
- Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer’s consent to deal with a customer enquiry.
- Suppliers can only take half hourly meter readings from a customer who has explicitly said they are happy for half hourly readings to be taken.
A Supplier’s obligations
- To take all reasonable steps to install a Smart Meter at every customer’s premises. It is not expected that all reasonable steps would extend as far as taking legal action to fit a smart meter if they cannot get the householder’s cooperation.
- Not to try to sell services or products on the Smart Meter installation visit
- To provide energy efficiency advice as part of the Smart Meter installation visit and to get the customer’s permission in advance of the visit if they want to talk about their own products
- Suppliers must regularly remind customers of the meter reading frequency being used, the uses those readings are being put to and the choices they have
- To give the customer the chance to refuse to allow daily readings to be taken.
- To ask the customer if they agree to half hourly readings being taken.
Questions & Answers
However this could still leave the communications module switched on, albeit with little traffic, and the rules are not clear on whether you could insist on it being turned off. It would require a site visit by the supplier and unfortunately, on most models, the communications module cannot be turned off. We suggest you talk your supplier about any concerns you have.
The new meters
Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and offer a range of intelligent functions.
For example, they can tell you how much energy you are using through an In Home Display (IHD). They communicate directly with your energy supplier, meaning you will get accurate bills, and there will be no need for your energy supplier to visit your home to read your meter in future.
They are no more intelligent than you.
You don’t need a minute by minute update of your energy consumption.
Make a utility spreadsheet and take a daily reading of your usage.
Benefits of smart meters
Smart meters bring a wide range of benefits. For example:
- smart meters give you near real-time information on energy use – expressed in pounds and pence
- you will be able to better manage your energy use, save money and reduce emissions
Gordon: There’s only one way to save money on utility bills and that’s to turn down or switch off.
- smart meters will bring an end to estimated billing – you will only be billed for the energy you actually use, helping you budget better
Gordon: The crux here is that employed meter readers are going to be made redundant and thrown onto the unemployment pile
- in time smart meters will make switching supplier smoother and faster, making it easier to get the best deals
Gordon: Yae, all fighting for a penny saving deal.
You will not be charged separately for a smart meter or for the In-Home Display. Under current arrangements you pay for the cost of your meter and its maintenance through your energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.
Gordon: It’s estimated that the Smart Meter Rollout will cost £11bn and if not paid for up front the cost will be met by consumers through higher tariffs.
Of interest, from the following link it would appear that 71% of households are not in favour of having a Smart-Meter installed.