David Johnson, an E.ON customer, was in for quite the shock when he was given a bill for £19,500 from his energy supplier, What makes this even more shocking is the fact that he was using a prepayment meter and had always paid his power bills upfront.
David was in for the shock of his life when he realized that his home’s electricity meter had been consuming a lot more money than normal. He then contacted E.ON but did not get much respite and was served with the huge bill. David, in a statement to a newspaper, said he could not find any reason for the surge in consumption by the meter. He ended by paying £190 in just 3 days. His house is ex-council and has an end-terrace with coal fire and storage heaters.
Upon calling E.ON, he was informed that he had an outstanding of over £11,850, this surged to over £19,000 as the meter continued to collect its debt. The company stated that his storage heaters were not connected to the prepaid meter. David continued to reach out to E.ON Support through phone and online chat, but the company did not do much apart from ensuring that they would ‘look into it’. He has since requested for a smart meter and an explanation of the inflated bill. E.ON did eventually write off the debt and apologized for the error but this is not a standalone incident.
Households have for long been complaining about energy firms and their pushy tactics to get them to use smart meters. This continues even after the UK government delayed the deadline for the smart meter rollout.
A story shared on ‘This is Money’ stated that they were contacted by a customer of the firm scheduled an appointment for installation of the smart meter without his consent or agreement.
The customer who did not wish to reveal their identity told that they received a text from his energy supplier containing details about an appointment that had been fixed for smart meter installation. The installation was scheduled a couple of weeks from the day the customer received the text between 8 AM and midday. The customer, however, had never requested for installation of this meter and was doubtful as it came from an unknown number.
The customer’s text was received just a few days before the government announcement about postponing the deadline by another 4 years. Citizens Advice has termed this move as ‘Common Sense’. This has provided suppliers more time for the installation of these smart meters. It has also allowed them to take steps to ensure that first-generation meters do not ‘go dumb’ when a customer switches supplier.
Numerous people have since complained of similar texts from Npower. Npower has confirmed that the text messages were authentic. Based on customer complaints online, the company has been scheduling the installation of these meters without an agreement. However, the firm stated that they do send the customer a letter before any mobile communication is sent.
These energy firms are being accused by their customers for blackmailing. Customers complained that they were blocked from switching over to the cheapest tariffs from the supplier until they installed the smart meters. A consumer who turned down the installation of smart meters was provided with a tariff that would cost hundreds of pounds more each year.
Smart meters are different than existing meters as they automatically send usage data and readings. This lets a customer pay for the exact amount that they owe and not an average bill. Earlier, suppliers were supposed to provide one to every home before 2020, which has since been delayed.
British Gas, which is the UK’s largest supplier, has its cheapest tariff that costs £954 annually. However, to be ‘accepted’ for that, a customer must have a smart meter installed in less than 3 months. Customers who refuse this are switched over to the next cheapest deal – a deal without a smart meter and one that costs them £1,220 in a year.