As reported this week in the UK’s Daily Mail:
“Just how smart are these energy meters? Hundreds of thousands of households left in billing limbo by clever gadgets” …
- Customer given an 11-month wait to fix faulty smart meter
- Then smart meter company cancelled three days before appointment
- Wild swings in energy usage measured by smart meters and in-home displays
- Energy giants left with backlog of complaints from updating systems
A number of people have contacted the Daily Mail indicating they have been left exasperated by the poor service they have received subsequent to the installation of a smart meter.
They claim that these new meters are not a cure-all for inaccurate billing woes as advertised by utilities.
Jeffrey Simmons, a retired cab driver, who lives with wife Cynthia, had a smart meter installed at his two bedroom bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
But it has continually failed to send automatic readings to his supplier Ovo Energy.
The problem first came to light over Easter last year and a visit was set up to fix the fault. But Jeffrey was told the first available appointment was March of this year – 11 months later.
He waited patiently but the company cancelled just three days before a visit was due.
In the meantime, Jeffrey was paying for how much gas and electricity Ovo Energy estimated he had used – £74 a month for dual fuel – rather than how much he had actually used.
“So much for smart meters,” he says. “The Government insists we now have them to make it easier for people to keep on top of their energy usage, but I’ve got one and it doesn’t even send readings. Ovo was friendly but said there was nothing staff could do.”
Meanwhile, a Norfolk-based Daily Mail reader is taking issue with the quality of the in-home display device that came with his smart meter, which shows odd patterns of energy use.
Smart meters are wall-mounted units that transmit data to suppliers, but in the U.K. they come with mobile home display units indicating how much energy is used in real time and in pounds and pence.
The pensioner, who is in remission after battling throat cancer, says:
“The main problem has been wild swings overnight from being under-budget to being over-budget for no reason and with no additional use of electricity.”
“At 3:20pm on April 19 the device showed I was 29 per cent under budget. I went to bed early that day as I was not feeling well. At 5:06am on April 20 it showed I was 14 per cent over budget. But nothing – not a light or heating – was left on overnight.”
“I now look [at the in-home display] as one of my sideboard ornaments – sitting among dried herbs, spices and a salmon-fishing reel.”
Preparation for a wider rollout of smart meters has prompted energy companies to update their computer systems, but customers are suffering the fallout from such rapid change.
Co-operative Energy is currently facing a customer backlash from a recent botched update of its computer systems, resulting in more than 200,000 users being required to re-register to access their online accounts.
It is fielding around 400 calls a day from customers experiencing re-registration problems.
Energy Goliath npower has had a backlog of late bills triggered by a computer system overhaul in 2013, with around 90,000 bills outstanding in the first two months of this year.
In March this year, ScottishPower was subject to a 12-day sales ban by energy regulator Ofgem for its failure to resolve customer complaints fast enough.
An “IT bug” also affected Ovo Energy late last year, leading to customers receiving inaccurate bills.
The information reported in the Daily Mail is consistent with the March pronouncement by the U.K.’s Institute of Directors (IoD) that smart meters are a “government IT disaster waiting to happen.”
The IoD has called for the “Smart Meters scheme to be halted, altered or scrapped to avoid unjustified, over-engineered and expensive mistake.”