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One in three homes report problems with smart meters

  • A third (31%) of smart meter owners have encountered issues with their devices since their unit was installed – from meters ‘going dumb’ to displays breaking

  • One in five (20%) households say they have been offered first generation ‘SMETS1’ meters since March, despite the Government and Ofgem saying they should be installing second generation ‘SMETS2’ devices after this date

  • Over half of homes (53%) believe their supplier didn’t fully explain the benefits of their meter prior to installation, although this marks an improvement on 61% who didn’t receive a full explanation last year

  • Despite this, 29% say that owning a smart meter has helped decrease their energy bills, up from 16% in 2018

  • Uswitch calls on suppliers to explain smart meters more clearly to their customers and only offer them second generation smart meters.

With just over a year to go until the deadline passes for installing smart meters across the UK, around four million smart meter owners are running into problems with their devices, according to new data from Uswitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

More than a third (31%) of households with smart meters have reported device issues since installation, with problems ranging from smart displays not working (39%) and devices ‘going dumb’ after switching (32%), to meters ceasing to function entirely (13%). And a third (33%) of households with second generation “SMETS2” meters – which were not expected to experience technical problems – have also encountered issues since they were installed.

Disconcertingly, one in five (20%) smart meter owners say they have been offered a first generation smart meter device (SMETS1) since March. Energy suppliers haven’t been able to count SMETS1 meters towards their installation targets since this date and should be rolling out second generation SMETS2 meters instead, as these devices are supposed to remain in smart mode no matter which energy supplier a household switches to.

The majority of smart meter owners (53%) are also still in the dark about their benefits, with over half saying that their supplier didn’t fully explain the advantages of owning one before it was installed – but knowledge has improved since last year when 61% didn’t receive a proper explanation.

More than a fifth (22%) of homes still report feeling pressured by their supplier into taking a smart meter, though this is fewer than the 30% who felt this way in 2018. 5% said their supplier tried to install a meter without their permission, but this is a reduction on the 11% experiencing this a year ago.

Despite these problems, 29% of homes say that owning a smart meter has helped reduce energy bills, up from 16% last year. Two thirds of households (67%) also say that their device has made them more aware of how much energy they use, compared to just under a third (28%) in 2018.

This awareness has helped galvanise better energy saving habits in some areas: 38% say they now turn off lights when they aren’t in the room compared to 33% in 2018, and 22% now wash clothes at a lower temperature, up from 18% last year. In fact, smart meter owners say changing their habits has helped them save around £108 a year on average.

Rik Smith, energy expert at Uswitch.com, says: “While it’s great to see smart meters improving energy habits and helping consumers to save on their bills, there are still far too many issues with the rollout which are damaging consumer confidence in the whole scheme.

“There is a real opportunity to build more confidence in smart meters now, if households are given the right information to make the most of their new device, and if and they’re only offered a second generation meter which shouldn’t go dumb if someone switches supplier.

“But people say that they’re still being offered first generation meters, despite the legacy of them going wrong and the risk they will go dumb when someone changes to a different provider. The lack of clarity around when these SMETS1 devices will work seamlessly with multiple suppliers is losing the scheme the advocates it desperately needs. Energy companies should only be offering second generation meters to their customers, which will give them peace of mind that it should stay smart if they switch.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Tim Dunford

Phone: 020 3872 5612

Mobile: 07785 552666

Email: tim.dunford@uswitch.com

Twitter: @uswitchPR

Notes to editors

Research was conducted online by Opinium between 26 July-1 August 2019, among 2,011 UK adults who have a smart meter.

  1. When asked ‘Have you experienced any technical, functional or supplier related issues with your smart meter since it was installed?’, the net response for ‘yes’ was 31%

  2. When asked ‘Which of the following issues have you experienced with your smart meter?’, the response for ‘smart display doesn’t work’ was 39%, ‘my device “went dumb” when I switched supplier” was 32% and ‘device stopped working entirely’ was 13%

  3. When asked ‘Has your supplier offered you a first generation (SMETS1) device since March this year?’, the net response for ‘yes’ was 20%

  4. Source: This Is Money, 2019

  5. Source: Ofgem, 2019

  6. When asked ‘Did your energy supplier explain what a smart meter was and its benefits before  it was installed (either on the phone, via post/email or in person)?’, 47% said ‘yes, they explained it fully.’

  7. Source: Uswitch data 2018: When asked ‘When your energy supplier contacted you, did they tell you why they were offering you a smart meter, and explain its benefits before installation (either on the phone, via post/email or in person)?’, 39% said ‘Yes, they explained it fully.’

  8. When asked ‘Has your smart meter helped to  decrease or increase the cost of your energy bills?’, the response for ‘decrease’ was 29%, the response for ‘increase’ was 12%, the response for ‘neither increase nor decrease’ was 49% and ‘I don’t know’ was 10%

  9. Source: Uswitch data 2018: When asked ‘What, if anything, do you like about having a smart meter’, the response for ‘It’s helped me to reduce my expenditure on energy’ was 16%

  10. Around 12.8 million smart meters had been installed by the beginning of 2019. When asked ‘Have you experienced any technical, functional or supplier related issues with your smart meter since it was installed?’, the net response for ‘yes’ was 31%. 31% of 12.8 million = 3,968,000

  11. When asked ‘Have you experienced any technical, functional or supplier related issues with your smart meter since it was installed?‘, the net response for those with second generation smart meters (SMETS2) was 33%. 

  12. When asked ‘Did you feel under pressure from your supplier to get a smart meter installed?’, the response for ‘yes’ was 22%

  13. Source Uswitch 2018: When asked ‘Did/do you feel under pressure from your supplier to get a smart meter installed?’, the response for ‘yes’ was 30%

  14. When asked ‘How was your smart meter installed?’ 4% said ‘My supplier booked an installation appointment without consulting me’ and 1% said ‘An engineer showed up at my home to install it without prior warning.’

  15. Source: Uswitch 2018: When asked: ‘How are/were you made to you feel under pressure?’11% said ‘My supplier booked an installation without telling me in advance.’ 

  16. When asked ‘Has having a smart meter changed how you check your energy usage in any of the following ways? Please select all that apply’, the net response for ‘yes’ was 67%

  17. Source: Uswitch data 2018: When asked ‘What, if anything, do you like about having a smart meter’, the response for ‘It helps me pay attention to what I use energy on’ was 28%

  18. When asked ‘Has having a smart meter changed your  household’s energy habits in any of the following ways?’, the response for ‘Turning off lights in rooms that aren’t being used’ was 38% in 2019 versus 33% in 2018, and ‘Washing clothes at lower temperature was 22% in 2019 versus 18% in 2018

  19. When asked ‘By how much do you estimate your energy bills have  decreased as a result of your smart meter, on average?’, the average response per month was £9. £9*12=£108

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