Almost a third of household smart meters not working properly, says Citizens Advice

The number of gas and electricity smart meters that are not working properly is likely to be higher than government figures suggest – possibly 20% to 30% of the total – according to research from Citizens Advice.

The charity said millions of households were missing out on the promised benefits from smart meters due to “problems with technology” and poor supplier customer service.

Smart meters are seen as an important part of the transition to net zero as they allow homeowners to more easily track their energy use and take steps to reduce consumption. They send real-time data on customer usage to suppliers remotely when in “smart mode”.

But the technology’s introduction has been slow and bumpy, and last year, parliament’s public accounts committee said ministers had not done enough to convince households of their benefits.

In March, data from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero showed that, at the end of last year, 3.98m meters in Great Britain were not working properly – or had “temporarily lost smart functionality”, to use the official terminology.

That figure represents a little more than 10% of the 34.8m smart meters in homes and businesses.

However, Citizens Advice said its research suggested this was “just the tip of the iceberg”. It said a poll carried out between August and October 2023 involving 4,000 domestic energy consumers across the UK showed that 20% of households with a smart meter still had to regularly submit manual meter readings because their device was not doing so automatically.

Almost one-third (31%) of those polled said they had experienced problems with their meter’s in-home display – the screen that helps people track their energy usage and costs.

In addition, a quarter of people who asked Citizens Advice for help with smart meter issues had billing problems.

The charity said it was particularly worried that people could end up with “huge unexpected bills” if their supplier was not able to take an automatic reading for an extended period of time.

Meter problems have led to some households racking up debt due to readings not being sent automatically. In some cases, “catchup bills” running into four figures had been sent to customers after meters went unchecked by suppliers for more than a year, said a spokesperson for the organisation.

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Citizens Advice said its data indicated millions of households were being “let down” by meter problems that suppliers were failing to fix.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said its statistics showed the vast majority of the meters installed – almost 90% – were working in smart mode.

“Energy suppliers are required to keep their customers’ meters working, and Ofgem is responsible for regulating them against this requirement,” they added.

“Any issues with smart meters and in-home display screens should be addressed promptly, and we will soon announce plans to drive better service for new and existing smart meter customers.”


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