Every home should be offered a smart meter from their supplier by 2020.
The smart meter rollout across England Scotland and Wales should see an end to energy customers having to manually provide their supplier with meter readings — making bills more accurate. Another major benefit is that a smart meter's in home display can show what a household is spending on gas and electricity in real time.
Despite the clear perks to consumers, there is concern that tight deadlines for suppliers to install the meters are causing questionable tactics to come into play. Recent uSwitch research suggests that some suppliers – mandated to hit government installation targets – may be pushing consumers too hard to accept one, with many consumers feeling that supplier communications regarding smart meters haven’t given them the full picture.
Three in ten consumers that have been offered a smart meter said they felt pressured into accepting it by their energy supplier. Of this group, a further three in ten claim they were not given a choice, and that it was part of a routine meter upgrade.
Opting in for a smart meter is not compulsory, and all households are able to decline one. However, it seems that this isn't the only information that hasn't been successfully relayed to customers: one in ten said they weren’t provided with any information at all about why they needed a smart meter or what it was for.
Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch.com, says: "Unfortunately, the smart meter rollout has been delayed because not all the necessary infrastructure has been built yet.
"This has led to a rush to meet the 2020 deadline and energy companies being threatened with fines if they don’t meet the installation targets imposed on them, creating an environment where some suppliers feel they need to use questionable tactics to try to get households to accept a smart meter.
"Households have a right to know that they don’t have to accept a smart meter if they don’t want one. Consumers have told us about engineers turning up unannounced to install them without customers’ permission which is simply unacceptable.
"No one should feel pressured into having one without even understanding what it can and can’t do.
"Smart meters are an important upgrade to the country’s energy infrastructure and will help consumers reduce their energy use – and ultimately their bills. But energy suppliers need to focus on helping households to understand what the smart meters currently being offered can do and why they are being rolled out. Otherwise the risk is that households won’t change their behaviour to reduce their energy usage, nor will they trust the technology, and faith in the rollout programme will be lost.
"Putting consumers at the heart of the programme is more important than hitting a deadline which is looking increasingly unrealistic"
Full details of the research featured can be found in the uSwitch media centre