Latest British Gas Tactics – “You WILL have a Smart Meter”

Sadler’s letter – “This isn’t a customer choice… they’re a benefit to our customers … It’s a government initiative…”

Yesterday we received some concerning correspondence from a British Gas customer which suggests that British Gas’s Smart Metering policy has changed and that it will now force customers to have its controversial new Smart Meters.

In a letter sent by British Gas Customer Relations Team representative, Kate Sadler, the customer was told:

“Every single one of our [British Gas] customers is going to have a Smart Meter installed.  This isn’t a customer choice, as we’re replacing all our meters with Smart Meters… We’re installing these meters across our whole customer base as they’re a benefit to our customers… It’s a government initiative… Unfortunately I’m unable to stop this from happening just for you, as as I’ve mentioned above all our customers will be having these installed.”

Sadler’s comments suggest that British Gas is now prepared to force its customers into having Smart Meters irrespective of their wishes, and to ignore the Government’s promises of customers having the right to refuse them.  The letter makes no mention of the fact that all energy consumers (as per the UK’s Electricity and Gas Acts*) have the right to have their own, non-Smart Meters installed, and even contradicts assurances given by British Gas’s Smart Metering Managing Director, Stuart Rolland, just two days before this latest letter.

Rolland’s letter – “you do not have to have one if you don’t want one”.

Responding to another customer who had served British Gas with formal Notice of Non-Consent for Smart Meter Installation through our website, Rolland explicitly concedes that:

“… you do not have to have a smart meter if you do not want one; we will remove your details from our rollout programme.”

Given the evident contrast in the letters which were sent by two different people within British Gas, we cannot be clear as to whether there is a level of breakdown within British Gas Smart Metering policy enforcement or whether the company is now ready to force customers into accepting Smart Meters irrespective of their wishes.

 

* Your right to have your own (non-Smart) Energy Meter installed:

In 1986 and then in 1989, the UK’s Gas and Electricity Acts were respectively brought into being.  Amongst other provisions, these Acts enshrined statutory provisions allowing energy consumers to have their own gas and electricity meters installed on their property.

To explain specifically in relation to electricity, for example, Schedule 7 of the Electricity Act 1989,ss.1(2) &(2A) outlines the following:

[(2) If the [authorised supplier] agrees, the meter may be provided by the customer [(who may provide a meter which belongs to him or is made available otherwise than in pursuance of arrangements made by the supplier)]; but otherwise it shall be provided by the [authorised supplier] [(who may provide a meter which belongs to him or to any person other than the customer)].
(2A) [An authorised supplier] may refuse to allow one of his customers to provide a meter only if there are reasonable grounds for his refusal.] [You can check the UK Association of Meter Operator’s websitefor more information.]

Our interpretation of this provision is that, so long as one’s own choice of non-smart/analogue meter complies with regulations and the supplier has no reasonable grounds for saying otherwise, and any in situ Smart Meters can be sent back to the supplier.  The only reasonable grounds for the supplier refusing this request that we can envisage would be if the meter is not compliant with safety or accuracy regulation.  The issue of whether your own meter is “smart” or not seems irrelevant, and would certainly appear to have nothing to do with the Government’s “No Backward Step” policy which we have written about here.

34 Comments
  1. Anyone who is a British Gas customer and has not yet had a smart meter installed should switch supplier immediately and deny their “engineers” access to their premises until the transfer has been completed.

    It goes without saying that no one using another supplier should even consider transferring their account to British Gas. It looks as though the most sensitive place to hit them is in their pocket.

    • Received a call from British Gas on Saturday telling me I need my 4 year old meter replacing with a nice new smart one. I told the lady that under no circumstances would I allow them to fit this new meter. She asked me why I was so adamant I didn’t want one fitting, which would require me to refrain from swearing!

      Then on Wednesday I received a letter from British Gas telling me all their customers would soon be having their meters replaced.

      I will be changing supplier the moment my 12 month contract is up.

  2. British Gas are just trying it on. It is quite common for disreputable businesses to speak with forked tongue like this. Not only does the new message give them an opportunity to test the waters and see how much real opposition there is to their heavy arm tactics, but it is also entirely retractable. You know the sort of thing: ‘British Gas apologises unreservedly to their customers for any misunderstanding regarding the recent initiative of our Customer Relations Team…’

    Should push come to shove, there is no way British Gas would risk the negative publicity of actually cutting a customer off who opted for a ‘safe meter’ as opposed to a ‘smart meter’.

  3. I notice that the MID guide/directive states that a UK National approved meter (which will have been installed prior to 2006) can be used indefinitely if it remains accurate. Mine has been here less than twenty years.

    Also ‘Smart meters, a guide: Dept of Energy & Climate Change’ Jan 22
    2013: Energy companies will be required to install smart meters and take all reasonable steps to reach everyone. However we do not expect energy companies to take legal action to fit a smart meter if they cannot get the householders co-operation’.They had told me it was time for a meter change and despite what they said, I belive they want to fit a smart meter (Landis & Gyr)
    I am with an offshoot of Southern Elec. and asked by registered letter to buy my own. They have hedged and tried to put me off. I have sent another letter containing the above info. and repeated my request. Many people still have spinning disc meters and they don’t get bothered.

    • That observation about accurate metering is a great find Power Unseen, thank you.

  4. Hmm, the words ‘Health and Human Rights’ come to mind, and a quote that’s currently on the World Health Organisation’s website, “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being”.

  5. I see that British Gas assure us:

    “…The facts are plain; smart meters will help people save energy putting money in their back pocket.”

    Why the back pocket ? Hertfordshire Police advise us:

    “…Men should keep their wallet in a front pocket rather than in their back pocket, making it harder for a thief to slip their hand in unnoticed.”

  6. I suppose anyone wanting to have the best chance of avoiding the radiation in the long term will be to go electric only and do away with gas altogether, many people already have electric boilers etc and have no need for gas or a gas meter.

    The fewer utility providers you have the less battles you’re going to have to fight. Hopefully in the future when public awareness is high enough we can get these things removed altogether but if not then there remains the possibility that going off grid altogether may be the only way to protect yourself (assuming of course your neighbours’ meters aren’t blasting you) in the longer term.

    Even if you can get away with refusing smart meters, there’s every possibility that in X years time your analogue meter will stop functioning and it may not be possible to find and install another old analogue meter yourself.

    Clearly we can’t trust the authorities to protect us so I think that anyone concerned about this is going to have to make serious long term plans now to find ways to protect themselves.

    And to think, we’re just some of the lucky few who are actually aware of all this! Years ago Orange stuck a mobile phone mast next to my old house which within a few years had seriously affected my health and that of my family and there is no way I’m going to let that happen again!

    • An experimental run of Water metres have been installed in the UK, and presumably the same will happen for Electricity.

      The question which I keep coming back to is that if energy companies do not intend to remove a smart metre once installed, then a household will be prevented from making future sustainable energy conversions using solar panels etc which would be nonsensical!

    • I believe non-smart meters will always be available.

      • But there are also plans for wireless metres for electricity too, and some wireless water metres have been installed in the UK. Wireless water metres are to be avoided at all costs apparently, due to the non-ionising radiation of the water. I don’t know the science behind this but it makes complete sense – and I don’t like the idea of my tap water being subjected to radiation at these levels.

        • Water should not get microwaved. Seeds won’t germinate I believe if given water that has previously been microwaved.

    • Smart meters are for gas and electric, not just gas

  7. I had a smart meter fitted by British Gas last year, before I became aware of the health risks associated with these things. I want the meter removed. Does anyone have any suggestions how I go about this? Do I go with a green energy supplier and have them fit a new meter and return the smart meter to British gas?

    • Hi Ian,

      Best bet is to request removal first. Some people have been able to get BG to replace their Smart Meters back to analogue citing health problems and lack of full disclosure.

      See where you go from there – but you have no obligation to have a Smart Meter, and could get one of your own installed by a qualified electrician if push comes to shove. If they didn’t give you full disclosure, then they can’t really argue that you gave informed consent.

      Good luck and let us know if we can assist.

    • Try asking British Gas to indemnify you and your house insurers against interception of broadcasts from its Smart Meter that might at some future time be scanned, disencrypted and interpreted to determine whether your property is occupied. We don’t have Smart Meters, but I’ve already asked our (very sensible) insurer about its general policy on Smart Meters and that possible weakness, but strangely not had a reply.

    • Hi Ian, I’m in the same position as you were in August. I’m wondering if you’ve managed to have the smart meter removed?
      British Gas have refused to remove the meter from our house.
      Do you or anyone else know which energy provider(s) are willing to remove smart meters or maybe switch off the signal, if that’s possible? Thanks.

    • Hi Ian, what happened…was there any developments with this as I cannot see your response?

  8. When anyone tells me what to do,what is good for me,and I must have it,I am one of those people who are all the more determined to not have it.
    It’s a pity I am not a B.G.customer,as I would have looked forward to the “fight”to come.

  9. It seems to me that this is probably a bluff intended to gain customer permission not to compel submission against the customer’s stated will.

    Because if the customer continues to refuse, BG has to consider various awkward possibilities for what happens next:

    Should a BG operative attempt to demand entry against the customer’s will?

    What should the operative cite as his authority to do so?

    If resisted, would the operative require a police escort?

    If the customer continues to resist, will the police restrain the householder?

    Hold him in the police car?

    Arrest him?

    If arrested, what should he be charged with?

    Will he give in or choose to go to trial and demand trial?

    Is it likely a jury would convict in a case like this unless directed by the judge?

    If the judge directs – then what?

    What media interest and comment will this arouse?

    So, if the customer gives in and allows the meter to be installed, it’s easy for the company. But if the continues to refuse, the company is put in quite a difficult position. It seems to me they haven’t actually thought this through.

  10. The day we allow this final push on our freedom of choice to succeed then all freedom is lost. I told united utilities to remove the one they put in my house and they have. STAND YOUR GROUND….Whose bloody house is it? YOURS OR THEIRS. If British Gas and the other companies want soooooooo much authority on your houe TELL THEM TO PAY THE F…..G MORTGAGE!!!!

  11. Data mining control freaks to MAXIMIZE Profits, up is down, peace is war, need i say anymore? forgetting any potential health risks.

  12. Just wondering If the letter I’ve received today is “another ploy” to switch over to this Smart Meter??

    Sent by British Gas (August 2013)…

    “The manufacturer of your meter has made us aware that some meters may develop a fault. It’s not a safety issue, but we’d like to take this opportunity to exchange your meter as soon as possible – for free.”

    It doesn’t state what the fault is good or bad?? Have we possibly over/under paid?? Is there anything wrong with it at all??

    Has anybody else received a letter like this?

    Any information appreciated.

    Many Thanks

  13. To Caroline,
    Is it an induction disc meter or perhaps digital? Have you had it a long time? I understand some modern meters send pulses down the line to mark units of consumption. Eventually the switch making these pulses wears out and stops working. Therefore you still get the electricity but the readings don’t increase. I take a reading now and again. I keep a special book near the meter.
    After ascertaining your meter is working right as far as you can tell, why not send them a nice polite letter by registered post saying (as its not a safety issue)you would like to keep your present meter as allowed under the Measuring Instruments Directive (even when past its certified life of ten, fifteen or twenty years) and in any case you will not have a smart meter under any circummstances. Assuming you are quite sure you don’t have a smart meter.
    You will invite them to inspect the present meter at any reasonable time. See what they say.
    I believe you are allowed to keep your present meter indefinately if it is working accurately to prescribed limits. I believe they are sometimes reluctant to come out and test these things. As mentioned on this site it is even possible to buy your own meter, but I have not yet actioned this possibilty myself. Twenty quid or so for the meter but a lot more to fit it? I gather the smart meters cost the utility about £265.
    Initially I told them they were welcome to exchange an analogue meter for another analogue, but I didn’t want a smart meter. I received a letter in response which made me suspect they were not properly listening to me, so I put a couple of heavy lines through it, marked it null and void and sent it back. Eventually I had to write another letter saying I hope you find this acceptable and unless I hear from you, I’ll consider the matter closed….
    I found phoning the utility unsatisfactory.

    • Hi Power Unseen,

      Many thanks for your reply.

      It is a digital meter and was installed about 5 years ago.

      As I receive quarterly bills, I like to take and record both my gas & electric meter readings at the time. I’ve never noticed any problems with the readings and the bills are mostly what I expected for our usage.

      My usage has decreased, and is reflected in our bills, but that is down to a concerted effort to reduce my bills and costs.

      I will follow your advice and see what happens.

      Again many thanks.

      Caroline

  14. I refused to have a smart meter fitted, due to security reasons, but said I was prepared to have a digital,the lady was very pleasant she cancelled the appointment and said I would not be bothered again.DONT LET THEM TELL IT IS LAW TO HAVE ONE FITTED, IT IS YOUR CHOICE.

  15. Does anyone have any experience of removing a smart water meter? I have asked for mine to be removed but Southern Water won’t remove it, I tried hard, in the end they said the next step would be to provide a Doctors certificate proving the meter was having an impact on my health and only the meter and proving it wasnt WIFI etc.

    • Hi Caroline – firstly, there is no obligation to have a Smart Water Meter. See here: http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/official-defra-confirms-smart-water-meters-are-not-compulsory/

      Did the water company consult with you prior to the installation of meters on your street, or provide you with full-disclosure of how the meter operated? If not, then it would seem that you have not provided your fully-informed consent and that would make them obliged to remove the meter. You shouldn’t have to prove the meter is harming you – they should be able to prove it is SAFE.

      The answer to your question about whether anyone has done so successfully is YES – people have had Smart Water Meters removed. A recent case was kindly emailed to us by a member of No-CCTV.org.uk:

      Thought I would share this with you.

      I owe [redacted water co.] £1,500 in unpaid water bills and they are charging me a monthly flat rate which is higher than my neighbours who all have water meters (to ‘save money’). I have always held out and refused to have a water meter as I see it as rationing and introducing artificial scarcity when water is plentiful in the UK. Recently friends persuaded me to have a meter fitted as it will ‘save you money’.

      I was expecting a simple mechanical device that measured flow rate in litres, linked by a cable to a black disc (like an ice jockey puck) outside the house on the external wall, which is read by [redacted water co.] using a ‘touch reader’. This is not what I got.

      They only went and fitted an RF smart meter inside my bathroom next to the toilet! I was not informed that it was a ‘new type’ of meter that could be read remotely (from 100 yards away) until AFTER it had been fitted. As the man left, he gave me some leaflets ‘about your water meter’ saying that they can only switch them off if requested (not remove them) and anyone removing it themselves would be guilty of a criminal offence!

      Naturally I rang them back and demanded they return and remove their device from my property, as they had failed to obtain ‘informed consent’ from the householder prior to installation. I was successful and the device has now been removed.

      Although I did not record the telephone conversation, I explained that I would be requesting the audio recording that [redacted water co.] tell me they keep of all customer calls (using a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act). I will have to write to [redacted] Headquarters requesting it and enclosing a cheque for £10.

      During the conversation I also suggested to the customer service woman that she should look up stopsmartmeters.org.uk.”

      Follow-up email:

      Basically I said I was ringing to ‘instruct’ them to remove the smart meter from my home. They tried to assure me that these were the latest and best meters and they don’t/won’t fit the ‘old’ type any more, so they couldn’t/wouldn’t fit a mechanical one in its place.
      Fine, I said, just remove it. She had to speak to her supervisor 3 times and kept coming back with the company line on how to fob off customers. But I was adamant (and polite) explaining that I was not ringing for a discussion, but to ‘instruct’ the company to remove their device from my property, since it had been installed ‘without informed consent’. I had consented to ‘a water meter’ but NOT to a radio frequency smart meter. Since I was not informed that the meter was an RF smart meter until AFTER it had been installed, it had therefore been fitted without my informed consent (I had been misled) and the company must comply with my request (instruction) to remove it. No ifs, no buts. The company did not tell me beforehand that they would be fitting an RF Smart meter, only afterwards was I told what type of device it was.

      I told them I was opposed to RF Smart meters but did not go into the reasons for my objections (I don’t need to justify why) except that I would never have consented to having a smart meter if the device had been accurately described to me.

      I also stated that I would be requesting a copy of the telephone conversation under the data protection act (subject access request) in case I needed it for Ofwat or the courts.

    • Dear Caroline, ref smart meters, my son in law was told that he was to have one fitted, on hearing this he changed suppliers, when British Gas found out the reason for him swapping over,They told him he did not have to have a Meter if he did not want one, then went on to offer a £70 discount to go back to them, what is going on? its our money they are playing with.

    • Hi Caroline, what has happened since. Please inform us all

  16. I have had two letters from a company acting on behalf of my energy supplier asking to be allowed to change my meter, preferably for a Smart meter. However, having responded some months back when the first letter arrived to say that I did not want a Smart meter nor did I in fact want the inconvenience of having my existing meter exchanged as it was working ok and safely as far as I was aware.

    Can I be made to have my meter changed ?

    • Just two words will save a lot of correspondence,#### ###,I am not having a smart meter.
      It says it all in words everyone knows the meaning of and is straight to the point.