Smart meter fury as energy bill devices go ‘dumb’ and Ofgem begged to end crisis | Personal Finance | Finance

 Watchdogs have been told to get tough on energy firms that are failing to tackle the crisis of smart meters that have become ‘dumb’.

It emerged last week that as many as 4 million of the meters are failing to work as designed.

In theory, the smart meters supply real time information on energy use and cost to householders and suppliers.

However, a significant number of the first generation of the meters – known as SMETS 1 – are failing to work as intended.

The main problem is that they fail to connect to the 3G mobile phone network, which means they cannot send usage information to suppliers.

At the same time, some customers with a SMETS 1 meter find they no longer work when they switch to a new supplier.

The net effect is that householders risk being sent estimated bills, which can be wildly inaccurate and end up charging more than is justified.

The Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, Lord Callanan, has signalled the need for action to upgrade, repair or replace the failing meters.

He has written to the regulator Ofgem “urging action to ensure suppliers are held to account if they are not supporting customers with issues as they should be”.

Director of Energy at Citizens Advice, Gillian Cooper, said there are genuine concerns about failures of the meters.

She said: “Smart meters can bring huge benefits. But when things go wrong we know it can be incredibly frustrating for energy customers, whether it’s a bigger than expected bill or issues when your smart meter goes offline.

“Many people are struggling to get problems with their smart meters fixed quickly, and we’re concerned their rights are lacking.”

Smart Energy GB, a non-profit organisation which promotes the meters, said: “There are now almost 35 million smart meters (representing 61 percent of all meters) in Great Britain.

“The vast majority are operating as intended, with an overall improvement in the proportion of smart meters operating in smart mode since 2022, up from 87.3 per cent at the end of 2022 to 88.6 per cent at the end of 2023.

“We know that most people have a very positive experience with their smart meter, but we also understand the frustration felt by some whose meter may be temporarily operating without all of its smart features.

“If your smart meter is not sending automatic readings to your energy supplier, please be reassured that it will still be recording your energy use correctly.

“We would recommend that you send your supplier meter readings to make sure you receive accurate, rather than estimated, bills until all of the features of your smart meter have been restored.”

Ofgem said suppliers are required by their licence to take all reasonable steps to ensure they are able to communicate with their customers’ smart meters.

It said that if a meter loses smart functionality, it should continue to accurately measure usage as before, and customers will still be able to take manual readings from the meter in the traditional way.

Energy UK, which represents suppliers, said: “Suppliers have every reason to try and ensure all their customers can enjoy the full benefits of smart meters which give households greater control and understanding of their energy usage.

“Technical problems can prevent some meters from operating in smart mode and while this can be for reasons outside their control, suppliers still have an obligation to replace them when this happens.

“Customers should always contact their supplier if they are experiencing issues – there can be a range of potential fixes so these are best addressed on a case-by-case basis.”

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