Your Rights as a Customer

The UK Government requires energy suppliers to install smart meters for their customers, and has set out rules to ensure that they do this in a way that is in the interests of customers, including rules around:

  • data access.
  • security.
  • 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 2025. But there will not be a legal obligation on individuals to have one unless your existing meter is faulty or has reached the end of its certified life.

Energy companies will be required to install smart meters and take all reasonable steps to reach everyone.

Consumer protections

The government has ensured that appropriate customer protection provisions are 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 Schedule (SMIS). This covers:

  • Ensuring that installers are trained to the highest standards.
  • Arranging an appointment at a time to suit you.
  • Minimising disruption.
  • Providing the right service and support for anyone who is vulnerable or needs special help.
  • Telling you the options if a smart meter can't be installed.
  • Showing you how to use your smart equipment so that you get the maximum value from it.
  • Making sure any communications sent to you provides all the information and facts you need.
  • Advising you on ways you can monitor your energy use, and how you can use that information to become more energy efficient and reduce your energy bills.
  • Making sure action is prompt and keeping you informed on progress if something goes wrong with your smart equipment.

Consumer privacy

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 monthly readings will be available on electricity and gas. The electricity also stores 13 months of measurement data taken at half-hourly intervals which may be available for you to look should you wish to, although not all supply companies provide facilities to do this.

Your energy company, and the energy networks, will be able to see monthly 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.

Switching suppliers

Consumers should not have any problems switching energy company if they have a smart meter, although their meter may revert to 'dumb' mode if it is a SMETS 1 model which has not yet been migrated to the new DCC's systems.

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.

A customer's right, and the rights and obligations of supplier's have been clearly defined by DESNZ (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero).

A Customer's rights:

  1. To refuse to have a Smart Meter unless your existing meter is faulty or has reached the end of its certified life.
  2. To request daily readings rather than half-hourly. (Residential customers only)

A Supplier's rights:

  1. Suppliers can take half hourly readings without requiring any form of consent from the customer.
  2. Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer's consent if they suspect theft is occurring.
  3. Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer's consent to produce a final bill if they have changed supplier.
  4. Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer's consent to produce a final bill if the people living in a premises have changed.
  5. Suppliers can take a meter reading data without a customer's consent to deal with a customer enquiry.
  6. To install a certified meter to measure energy consumption. The metering may or not be Smart but as stocks of traditional meters are used up eventually only Smart Meters will be available for installation.

A Supplier's obligations

  1. To take all reasonable steps to install a Smart Meter at every customer's premises. 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 unless their existing meter is faulty or has reached the end of its certified life.
  2. Not to try to sell services or products on the Smart Meter installation visit.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. To give the customer the chance to refuse to allow half hourly readings to be taken. (Residential Only)

How to complain about your supplier

If you want to complain about your supplier, you must raise a complaint with them first before escalating to the Energy Ombudsman. The Ombudsman decisions are binding on the energy company. The timescales for this are important:

  1. Raise your complaint: Gather your evidence and raise your complaint with your supplier.
  2. After 8 weeks refer your case to the Ombudsman: If you are still not happy after at least 8 weeks have passed you can refer the complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. This is the case even if you have received a 'deadlock' letter from the supplier saying they cannot resolve the matter.
  3. You should refer your case within 12 months of a deadlock letter from your supplier.

If you struggle with any of these steps, see the links below for help.

Helpful Links

When complaining these resources could help you:

  • Find your supplier: If you're not sure who your supplier or network operator is, ofgem provide some search tools to help.
  • Ofgem: The independent energy regulator ofgem provides guidance on how to complain.
  • Raise a complaint through the Energy Ombudsman: You can start the process at their complain now page.
  • Template Complaint Letters: Citizens Advice has template complaint letters you can use. They can also help with a complaint. Sometimes their powers mean they can act for you.
  • Complaint Statistics: Ofgem monitor the number of complaints for various aspects of the market and publish the results.

(Page updated: 2024-03-06)

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