The smart meter roll-out is touted as the solution to skyrocketing energy bills for consumers. While some users are praising the usefulness of these devices in managing energy consumption, plenty of consumers think otherwise.
Every supplier has had their fair share of complaints regarding the industry-wide roll-out, two Big Six energy providers can be singled out for providing less than stellar smart meter installation and functionality. Npower and new owner E.ON are facing severe criticism on their smart meter roll-out from customers and industry experts alike.
Several customers who are unhappy with their smart meters take to social media to express their disappointment and frustration.
Npower client Adrian Shawcross through his Twitter @JiveDancer99 posted a photo of his smart meter showing an energy bill of £99,999 and a warning that his weekly budget has been exceeded. It comes as an unpleasant surprise for the customer.
The company later replied that they have looked into the problem and are poised to correct the error. However, the customer could have been filled with worry about the unexplained spike on his energy bill.
A similar circumstance surprised @Benjibird on 14 July when his smart meter displayed the same bill and warning as that of Adrian. He was told to restart the device and send a direct message so that the company can investigate the matter further.
Both cases represent some other issues with the smart meter display, particularly the inaccuracy of information on the monitor. It can be misleading and confuse the customer, knowing that they have not gone over their weekly budget.
According to a study conducted by uSwitch, a comparison website, there are one in three UK households that suffer smart meter issues at some point of their usage.
Some consumers (32%) report that the smart device failed to work after switching to a new supplier, while several users (39%) said that their smart display is not working.
These common problems are valid reasons why a customer delays the upgrade to a smart meter. However, those who opt-out of the roll-out, for now, are paying hundreds of pounds more for their energy bills annually than those with a smart meter.
As per the uSwitch data, 13% or one in ten homes reported that their smart meters have stopped working entirely. Around 33% or a third of households using the SMETS2 or second-generation smart meters have also said they encountered technical issues since switching to the newer device.
SMETS2 was supposedly designed not to experience any technical difficulty.
Energy providers have been ordered by the UK government to convince consumers to switch to smart meters with the hopes of 50 million households joining the roll-out.
However, a lot of problems have occurred since the start of the programme. In March 2019, only 15.97 million households were fitted with a smart meter, which is a far cry from the target number by 2020. Out of the total smart meter installations, only 1.9 million are SMETS2.
In 2019, both Npower and E.ON were accused of customer blackmail, with several consumers claiming that they were forced to change to a smart meter because the companies were withholding the least expensive deals.
Which? published an article detailing typical smart meter problems as reported by customers. Taking the top spot are complaints relating to the smart meter going dumb after switching suppliers (11%).
Another common issue concerns the difficulty of taking a meter reading (11%). Other customers (9%) stated that their energy suppliers could not take meter readings from the device at all.
According to the National Audit Office or NAO, 70% of smart meters are reported to lose smart features when the customer switches suppliers.
The smart meter roll-out has met several unexpected problems, and companies like E.ON and Npower are still struggling to resolve issues such as faulty displays and inaccurate readings.