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Nearly 20% of smart meter users manually submit readings

Citizens Advice reports millions of UK households face issues with smart meters, urging new rules for suppliers to fix faults promptly to prevent unexpected bills

Citizens Advice has revealed that millions of UK households are not fully benefitting from smart meters due to faults and inadequate service from energy suppliers.

Despite over half of British homes having a smart meter, many continue to face problems that suppliers fail to resolve, according to the report.

According to the charity, 20% of households with a smart meter, amounting to 2.86 million homes, still need to manually submit meter readings as their devices are not sending automatic readings.

Nearly a third of users reported issues with their in-home display (IHD), which is intended to help track energy usage and costs.

Additionally, a quarter of people seeking help from Citizens Advice had billing issues related to their smart meters.

These unresolved problems have led some households to incur significant debt due to missed automatic readings, with some customers receiving unexpected catch-up bills exceeding £1,000 after their meters went unchecked for over a year.

Current regulations permit suppliers to back bill customers for up to a year, regardless of whether they have a smart meter.

Citizens Advice argues this period should be reduced to six months for smart meter users to prevent long term catch-up bills caused by meter failures.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The whole point of smart meters is to empower households to save energy and money, but in reality, millions are missing out on those benefits due to problems with technology and poor supplier service.

“Energy companies are very keen for customers to get a smart meter but when issues arise they are often nowhere to be found. That has to change.

“Suppliers have been far too sluggish in fixing issues with problem meters. New obligations and stronger accountability measures are needed to restore public trust in this vital tool to reach net zero.”

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told Energy Live News: “Our official statistics show the vast majority of meters are working in smart mode – almost 90% of the 35 million smart meters installed.

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

“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.”

Dhara Vyas, Deputy Chief Executive said: “Customers should always contact their supplier if they are experiencing issues with their smart meter – there can be a range of potential fixes so these are best addressed on a case-by-case basis.

“Technical problems can prevent some meters from operating in smart mode and while this can be for reasons outside their control, suppliers still have an obligation to replace them when this happens.

“Customers may need to send manual meter readings until their supplier is able to fix the issue, which is often with the display unit rather than with the meter itself.  

“Suppliers have every reason to try and ensure all their customers can enjoy the full benefits of smart meters which give households greater control and understanding of their energy usage.

“Nearly two-thirds of households now have a smart meter and we will continue to work with government, consumer bodies and suppliers to ensure the final stages of the roll-out further improve the customer experience for smart households.”

A Smart Energy GB spokesperson said: “The vast majority of smart meters are operating as they should and it’s good to see this report highlight that most smart meter owners are happy with them, benefiting from the ability to better manage their energy use and access smart products and more flexible energy tariffs.

“Independent research for Smart Energy GB shows that more than 8 in 10 people (83%) with a smart meter are happy with them*.

“However, if you’re among the minority with a smart meter that isn’t currently sending readings automatically to your supplier then we understand this can be frustrating. 

“Please be assured that if your meter isn’t currently sending readings automatically, it should still be recording your energy use and your energy won’t cost you more. 

“We would recommend that you contact your supplier if you experience an issue with your smart meter and send them regular meter readings to make sure you receive accurate, rather than estimated, bills until all of the features of your smart meter have been restored.”

Energy Live News has contacted Ofgem for comment.

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