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
- 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 2024. 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 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 Code of Practice (SMICoP). 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.
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.
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 SMETS1 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 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 SMETS2 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 premises 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 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.
- 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
Supplier says to you that they must fit a Smart Meter - What should you say?
Looking at the install numbers from Elexon
, the risk of getting an older SMETS1 meter is low and you are very likely to get the latest SMETS2 meter.
So we recommend you say Yes
. We still recommend insisting on a SMETS2 meter when ordering and when your installer arrives as:
- SMETS2 meters are more secure than SMETS1.
- Functions such as prepayment are more reliable across a range of suppliers.
- Although 15th March 2019 was the end date for installing SMETS1 meters, this just means that suppliers can't count SMETS1 towards their Ofgem targets. They could still install them if they have stock left over.
- Even if your supplier says they are installing SMETS2 only, the installer may have some SMETS1 left in their van to use where they can't get a SMETS2 to work or physically fit.
- SMETS2 meters will have a solution for high rise flats and basements where the meters and IHD (in House Display) are far apart. This is known as the alternative HAN solution and should be available at the end of 2020.
How has COVID-19 effected smart meter installs?
Smart meter installations are continuing. Meter installers will wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at all times and follow guidance on cleanliness and social distancing.
- The installer will not shake your hand or accept a cup of tea.
- The installer will not be able to demonstrate the IHD operation as this involves touching the screen. You will be given operating instructions instead.
- The installer won't ask you to sign off the installation.
- It is recommended you open windows to ensure good ventilation.
Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home, and you can change your mind and accept one later. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. However there will come a time when only Smart Meters are available and so if your meter breaks due to a fault it will be replaced by a Smart Meter. See our Against
page for information on why some people are worried about Smart Meters. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Can my supplier charge me for a Traditional Meter?
Although you can simply refuse a Smart Meter when offered, you can be charged for the installation of an old fashioned traditional meter when your current meter must be replaced because it is faulty or has reached the end of its certified life. In June 2020 BEIS stated that they considered such a charge can be reasonable, for example, if a non-standard metering service is requested by the consumer where a smart meter could be deployed. (Updated: 2020-10-25)
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 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. (Updated: 2018-07-01)
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 information with third parties. See our Customer Rights
page for your rights on meter readings. You can also decide whether or not your supplier can use that information for marketing purposes. Just call your supplier if you want to check or change your preferences. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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. SMETS2 equipment has been designed 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. However the earlier SMETS1 standard did not always interoperate unless the meters were on the same system, and even then support for interoperability by suppliers was poor. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Should I wait for a SMETS2 meter?
There are three types of smart meters, two in use currently (ADM & SMETS1), and one (SMETS2) is only now being installed in small volumes. 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. SMETS satnds for Smart Meter Equipment Technical Specifications. (Updated: 2018-05-05)
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. (Updated: 2015-01-23)
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. (Updated: 2015-01-23)
How long will it take to install a Smart Meter?
A typical installation will take about one hour per meter. However this will vary according to your property and where your meters are located.
Your electricity and gas will only be off for about 20 minutes though. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Are there special considerations for the location of a Smart Meter?
When a meter fitter first arrives at your premises they will usually check the signal available with a special tool and decide if the installation can go ahead; in some cases an additional aerial or alternate communications system can be used if the signal is poor. The Smart Meters must be fitted in place of or near your old meters as it is too expensive to move the incoming power cable and gas connection, and not good to have long cables from the main fuse (cutout) to the meter. (Updated: 2018-07-01)
I rent my home. What happens for me?
If you rent your home and pay your energy bill direct to a supplier, the request and installation of a Smart Meter will happen in the same way as those who are not renting. You don't need your landlord's approval but you should inform your Landlord that it is happening in case the suppliers also contact them. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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. If you have concerns about the accuracy of your meter you should contact your supplier. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Can I still switch energy supplier if I have a smart meter?
Yes. Ofgem has put in place 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 be operated as a traditional meter, meaning you will have to provide meter readings. The new DCC system allows customers to retain Smart functionality when switching between suppliers. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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. (Updated: 2014-12-20)
I'm a Landlord. What should I do?
If your tenant pays their energy bills directly to a supplier they will be contacted for the installation of a Smart Meter and you do not need to do anything. It would be a good idea to let your tenant know that you are happy with this.
However if they pay you for energy and you pay the Supplier, then you should arrange the installation of a Smart Meter or wait until you are contacted by a supplier. (Updated: 2019-10-21)