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 premise 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 premise. 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
Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. Many energy companies have dedicated teams to handle questions about the technology and the installation process.
Can my supply be turned off remotely?
Smart meters have the facility to remotely disconnect and reconnect both the electricity and gas supply. However most suppliers seem to have decided it is too dangerous to remotely disconnect or reconnect, as in the case of disconnection they cannot always be sure that the customer isn't relying on a supply for serious health reasons and in the case of reconnection the customer may have left a cooker on for example.
I have moved into a house with a smart meter. Can I get it removed?
You can 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 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.
Do I have to be at home for the installation?
You must be at home for the installation even if your meter box is outside. The government rules under SMICOP (Smart Installation Code of Practice) say that the suppliers must explain to you how the Smart Meter and In Home Display work. Additionally it is considered dangerous to disconnect and reconnect the supply without checking with the householder that it is safe to do so.
What will energy companies do with the information they collect about my energy consumption?
Under Ofgem codes published July 2013, you can dictate how much data your energy supplier can retrieve from your smart meter and whether your supplier can share that info with third parties. You can also decide whether or not your supplier can use that information for marketing purposes.
When will I get a smart meter?
Each supplier will plan their own roll-out to customers but all are expected to start installing high volumes in 2017. The uswitch
web site provides a useful guide to each supplier's progress with the smart meter roll-out. Contact your supplier to find out when your region can anticipate smart meter installations to start.
If my electricity and gas is with different suppliers, what happens?
If your electricity and gas is with different suppliers, each supplier will contact you to make an appointment to install a smart meter for the fuel they supply to you. The equipment has been design to a particular standard so that all the meters and In Home Displays can talk together, this way you only need one In Home Display which will normally be supplied by the first supplier who installs a smart meter in your home.
Should I wait for a SMETS2 meter?
There are three types of smart meters, two in use currently (ADM & SMETS1), and one (SMETS2) will be available from April 2017. Only the SMETS2 meter, in conjunction with the new systems provided by DCC, will allow all customers to switch and allow more options for communications. Unless you want to try out the new technology early, we suggest you wait for a SMETS2 meter; eventually all meters will be replaced by these.
How much will it cost me to run my In Home Display?
Your In Home Display (IHD) uses a very small amount of electricity. A typical IHD left on all year will cost less than £1 to run.
I want a smart meter fitted by my small supplier. They say they don't fit them yet, what should I do?
Small Suppliers are allowed by regulation to keep fitting Advanced Meters (an older type of electronic meter, not compliant with new SMETS1 or SMETS2 standards) until 12th March 2018. So it's their choice until that date.
Large suppliers are already fitting SMETS1 smart meters but only for particular tariff and customer groups that they can currently support. Large suppliers will have to stop fitting older Advanced Meters by 12th November 2017.
Can I look at my energy usage on the internet?
You will be able to view your energy usage on the internet at some stage. Suppliers are all working on new systems to make this possible.
How long will it take to install a Smart Meter?
A typical installation will take one and a half to two hours. However this will vary according to your property and where your meters are located.
How much data is stored on a Smart Meter?
The specification for these Smart Meters requires 13 months worth of consumption data to be stored at the highest level of detail, which is at half hourly measurement intervals.
How do I know the meters are accurate?
Just as with traditional meters, smart meters must be certified by the Regulatory Delivery
section of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
Can I still switch energy supplier if I have a smart meter?
Yes. Ofgem has created regulations to ensure that smart meters do not present an obstacle to customers wanting to switch suppliers. Should a customer have a smart meter installed and wish to switch to a supplier not yet supporting the technology, the new supplier is obligated to take on the customer, and the smart meter will revert to a traditional meter.
Can I have a smart meter if I'm a prepayment customer?
Yes. Smart meters work in both credit and prepayment modes. In fact, prepayment customers will have more flexible payment options available to them with smart meters, including remote top-up facilities.
How much will a smart meter cost me?
Your supplier will install your smart meter for free under the national upgrade programme set to begin in 2015. All households currently pay for the cost of their meters and required maintenance as part of their energy bills, this will be the same with smart meters. The overall cost is estimated to be £11 billion, however the estimated savings are expected to be £17 billion. So even after the investment of installing smart meters for everyone, there should be a national saving of £6 billion by 2030.
Who will install my smart meter?
Your energy supplier or an installer acting on their behalf will fit your Smart Meter and In Home Display. Ofgem has enacted the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice, which protects customers by prohibiting sales attempts during installation (unless previous consent has been given by the household). The code also ensures companies will properly explain how the smart meters work, and outline how households can use the data available to them to improve their energy efficiency.