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.
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 website for 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.