Homeowners who've waited THREE YEARS to get faulty smart meters  fixed


As bills soar, tracking your energy usage has never been more important. With this in mind, Money Mail last week posed the question: Is it finally time to get a smart meter?

Well, readers have now had their say — and their answer is a resounding ‘no’.

Smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your provider to ensure that bills are accurate. Households are also given a small monitor that should show how much power they are using in real time.

Boiling over: Our postbag has been bulging with letters and emails from readers who say their smart meter gadgets just aren't fit for purpose

Boiling over: Our postbag has been bulging with letters and emails from readers who say their smart meter gadgets just aren’t fit for purpose

Yet, over the past week, our postbag has been bulging with letters and emails from readers who say their gadgets just aren’t fit for purpose.

Many claim the installation was botched or that the technology has never worked because the mobile signal where they live is too weak.

Others are furious because the monitors that are supposed to help them keep on top of usage are faulty and routinely show the wrong information.

Some suppliers have even failed to update the figures displayed to reflect increased prices. As a result, customers are being hit by bigger bills than expected.

And despite pestering customers to upgrade their meter, providers have shown little interest in resolving these problems — with one reader forced to wait three years for a replacement.

It’s little wonder households are furious that the cost of the roll-out — which has topped £13 billion already — is being added to their bills.

As one reader put it: ‘With the need to replace obsolete and defective meters, the costs are escalating so perhaps it should be borne by energy supplier profits.’

Money Mail was so concerned by the sheer volume of your complaints that we have handed over a dossier to industry watchdog Ofgem for further investigation.

A spokesman for the regulator says: ‘We thank Money Mail for this information. Protecting consumers is our top priority and we want customers to be able to reap the benefits that smart meters can bring.

‘We engage regularly with suppliers and take enforcement action where this is appropriate.’

Signalling chaos

Smart meters run on 2G and 3G networks — older versions of the systems that connect your mobile phone to the internet when not using a WiFi connection.

But experts say this plan was always flawed because it can be difficult for the signal to permeate certain buildings — especially those with thick walls.

One reader told Money Mail an EDF Energy engineer said it would always be a struggle to fit a smart meter in her 1950s property due to the way it was built. Rural areas can be problematic owing to a lack of network coverage.

And another Mail reader, Steve Fletcher, has never been able to make his gas meter work since he first had the device installed and has regularly flagged up the problem.

His supplier, Bulb, says this is thought to be down to a poor mobile signal.

Roll-out: Problems with smart meters are only set to worsen as telecoms firms prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with the faster-paced 4G and 5G by 2033

Roll-out: Problems with smart meters are only set to worsen as telecoms firms prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with the faster-paced 4G and 5G by 2033

The 71-year-old from Leeds, says: ‘My next-door neighbour is with Bulb as well and she’s had the same problem with her meter which she’s had for two years.

‘It feels like the rollout has been rushed. They had that many targets to hit that they have not commissioned them properly. 

As with everything in life, if a company supplies you with something that is faulty, it should be replaced or repaired.’

After being contacted by Money Mail, Bulb has agreed to refit a new meter at Mr Fletcher’s home.

However, the energy firm says that this will not be possible if the problem is down to signalling.

My gas bill was triple what the meter said 

Shock: Jane McMahon's British Gas bill was three times higher than her smart meter had predicted

Shock: Jane McMahon’s British Gas bill was three times higher than her smart meter had predicted

Jane McMahon, left, was horrified when her British Gas bill was three times higher than her smart meter predicted.

The 72-year-old, from south London, had the device installed in January. It was reading the amount of energy used correctly, but had not accounted for a change in tariff prices — meaning the amount she had to pay was inaccurate on the display. 

Jane says: ‘We receive bills bi-annually so it took us until May to realise. I was horrified.

‘Our gas alone was £600 — I had expected £200, based on our meter readings.’

After being contacted by Money Mail, British Gas arranged to update the tariff details on Jane’s meter.

 

Botched work

Scores of households say they were told on the day of their installation that the tech might not work, with engineers warning of rising complaints.

In one of the worst cases, a 93-year-old Ovo customer lost her electricity supply after getting a smart meter. She had to pay £118.80 to an electrician, who said the installer had failed to turn on two control switches.

She told Money Mail: ‘My husband and I cannot afford to lose this amount of money through no fault of our own.’

An Ovo spokesman says the money has since been refunded.

Readers say they are also struggling to get broken smart meters fixed despite chasing suppliers.

Energy firms have been set strict installation targets which they must meet or face big fines. But once the device is fitted, households say they feel they are no longer a priority.

British Gas customer Pat Thwaites has been waiting for three years to get her smart meter replaced. In the meantime she has to rely on someone from the firm taking readings from her old meter, which she cannot reach.

The 83-year-old, from Essex, says: ‘It would be really useful to know what I’m spending on my gas and electricity. Each time I call British Gas they tell me something different.’

The supplier admits her complaints were not followed up. It will fit new meters next month.

Pensioner Sue Thurley, of Ware, Hertfordshire, says her gas display monitor has never worked and does not show how much she is spending.

She says: ‘The situation has caused my husband and I much anxiety.

‘I am fed up with phoning and emailing Scottish Power all the time asking them to fix it. But we’re worried we’ll be landed with a big bill.’

A Scottish Power spokesman says: ‘We regret any inconvenience Mrs Thurley has experienced. We have organised for an engineer to replace her faulty meter.’

Peace of mind: Smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your provider to ensure that bills are accurate

Peace of mind: Smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your provider to ensure that bills are accurate

Obsolete tech

Problems with smart meters are only set to worsen as telecoms firms prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with the faster-paced 4G and 5G by 2033. Experts warn this could cause millions of the devices to stop working.

Nick Hunn, of wireless consultancy firm WiFore, says: ‘Energy companies were told back in 2012 they were designing equipment with technology that was already becoming obsolete. But they were like rabbits in the headlights.’

It comes after providers were slammed for initially installing millions of older Smets1 devices in homes, which ‘go dumb’ if you switch supplier. They are now rolling out a newer Smets2 model, which should continue to work.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman says: ‘We are working with industry to ensure smart gas and electricity meters can remain in place as we move away from the 2G and 3G networks.’

A spokesman for campaign body Smart Energy GB says: ‘The vast majority of smart meters are operating as they should.

‘The smart meter roll-out is the biggest upgrade to our energy system in a generation — so it’s inevitable there will be temporary technical issues to overcome along the way.’

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