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Millions could face hefty energy bills due to smart meter faults

Millions could face hefty energy bills due to smart meter faults
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

Millions of households could face unexpected bills due to smart meter faults and "sluggish" supplier service, a charity warns.

A wave of issues have blighted families’ smart meters, including the need to regularly submit a manual meter reading as their device wasn’t doing so automatically.

This affected a fifth of all homes with smart meters, according to Citizens Advice.

A third (31%) also had problems with the screen display that helps you track the energy usage and cost.

Indeed, a quarter of everyone who contacted the charity for smart meter advice were getting in touch to discuss problems with their bills.

One example saw someone aged 71 receive a shock ‘catch-up bill’ worth £5,000 once he switched providers, after previously paying between £450 and £600.

Tenth of smart meters not in ‘smart mode’

The escalating bills racked up as his readings were not being sent automatically, which over a year quickly added up.

With half the UK having a smart meter installed and 10% of them being faulty, the charity has called for the back-billing period to shorten to just six months.

By the end of last year, around 10% of smart meters were not operating in the required ‘smart mode’ that sends the automatic readings, Government statistics found.

Following the ongoing concerns that could be costing homes thousands of pounds, Citizens Advice has called for suppliers to “be forced” to meet new guaranteed standards of performance.

If enforced, suppliers would then have to amend any problems with smart meters in a timely manner or customers would be automatically compensated.

In 2012, energy suppliers were legally obliged to complete the roll-out of smart meters by the end of 2019 and were required to take “all reasonable steps” to install them in homes and businesses.

The deadline for the completion met a few delays, first pushed back to the of 2020, then 2024 and then 2025.

‘Suppliers have been far too sluggish’

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.”

Moriarty added: “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.”