A BRITISH Gas customer was left furious over a “sneaky” Â£179 bill charge.
The Brit discovered his PayG prepayment meter was faulty, so called British Gas for help.
But the homeowner – who asked not to be named – was baffled by what the energy company told him.
But should he have refused the smart meter, and instead asked for a replacement conventional meter – he would have been charged Â£179.
The Brit told The Sun: “I have lived in my present property for over 20 years now and still have the pay-as-you-go meter that was already in the property when I moved in.
“I found no good reason to replace it, as I am rarely home and don’t use much gas.”
The homeowner was baffled by the “sneaky” charge, and added: “I just wonder how many members of the public are aware of this?”
A British Gas spokesperson told The Sun that their engineers supply and install smart meters for customers for free.
If a customer has a conventional meter that develops a fault, they will always endeavour to repair it for no cost.
But if they cannot repair a faulty conventional meter, they will offer to replace it with a smart meter – also for for free.
If the customer insists they do not want a smart meter and instead choose to replace their conventional meter, they are informed there is a charge. This can be up to Â£179.
British Gas stressed that this charge is made clear to the customer.
There is no Standard Licence Condition that explicitly says a supplier canât charge for fitting a traditional meter where a smart meter can be installed.
An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Where a customerâs meter needs to be replaced, for example for accuracy or safety reasons, their supplier should replace it with a smart meter unless there is a good reason not to.
“If a meter needs to be replaced, suppliers are not prohibited from charging a customer for a traditional rather than smart meter installation.
“That said, protecting consumers is always our top priority and we regularly engage with suppliers to ensure they are being fair and proportionate to consumers during what is an incredibly difficult time.”
Energy supplier Eon said a faulty meter would be replaced free of charge – whether it was smart or classic – and a customer would not be charged should they decline to upgrade to a smart meter.
Both SSE energy and its parent company OVO confirmed they do not charge if a customer refuses a smart meter or a faulty traditional one.
As do EDF, who said they do not charge to replace any domestic meters that fail due to technical reasons.
Scottish Power also does not charge.
A spokesperson said: “ScottishPower customers are not charged for refusing a smart meter, even if a traditional meter breaks and requires replacement.
“However, with fewer traditional meters being manufactured, their availability is gradually reducing.
“We advise customers to install a smart meter, as smart meters provide timely readings and support accurate billing.
“They remove the need for customers to manually submit readings and enable them to monitor their energy consumption when used with an in-home display.”
Smart meters are gas and electricity meters that can digitally send readings to your energy supplier – so you no longer need to take manual readings.
They show you how much energy you are using in pounds and pence, so can be used to help reduce your energy bill.
Unlike traditional meters, which simply register a running total of energy used, smart meters can record half-hourly price and consumption data and provide automatic meter readings to your energy supplier.
It doesn’t cost you anything to have a smart meter installed – your energy supplier will do it without being charge.
And it lets you track how much energy you use at night, during the day and peak times.
The display screen will show your energy usage live and show the cost in pounds and pence.
You can save money on your energy bills using a smart meter.
It won’t save you money just by having one.
But being able to see your energy usage and the cost could help you understand where you can cut back.
The government’s smart energy website explains: “A smart meter can help us to identify situations where we’re using a lot of energy and might want to make changes to this.
“If you use the information shown on your in-home display to reduce your energy use, you could cut costs and become more energy efficient.”
Your bill will be more accurate too, as it’s based on readings from actual usage, rather than estimates.
You will no longer have to give meter readings and you won’t be visited by a meter reading to record your usage.
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