Are smart meters really that smart? One concerned customer shares his experience

Are smart meters really that smart? One concerned customer shares his experience

By Grimsby Telegraph  |  Posted: March 07, 2016

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A GRIMSBY man says smart meters offering at-a-glance electricity and gas usage details may be “more trouble than they’re worth” right now for top-up account users.

Ian Gillies, of Arthur Street, recently had one of the devices fitted at his home by British Gas engineers.

Revolutionary smart meters are currently being rolled out across the country with the aim of everybody being offered one by 2020.

They are designed to help consumers be in control of how much energy they’re using and automatically send meter readings to their supplier.

However, top-up account user Ian said he has been plagued with problems since his device was installed.

He said: “I thought it was a good idea as we were having to go out and top up a card.

“With this, we’d only have to put money on through the app.”

Ian says the issues began when the table-top device, which displays energy usage, lost connection with the smart meter British Gas installed in a cupboard under his stairs.

“It’s just a blank screen saying it’s lost network and to contact customer services,” he said.

“I phoned them about a week ago and they told me they were doing an update.

“The person on the phone told me they did a test area and then rolled it out nationally.

“They then said they couldn’t help any more and would have to send someone out but that it would be about a month.”


Ian continued that this would be just an inconvenience to pay-monthly customers, but to people with top-up accounts, it has proven to be more than a nuisance.

He said: “I put some money on and I found out it hadn’t gone on.

“The thing is, if I hadn’t phoned up I wouldn’t have known.

“The smart meter is supposed to show you how much credit you have left but, because it’s not working, we have no idea.”

Ian’s previous meter emitted a sound when credit was running low but he says he relies on the problematic smart meter display to inform him of this now.

Topping up the account is a much more arduous process with the smart meter out of action, too. Ian added: “You can top it up with the card as before but you’ve got to get on your hands and knees and type the number you get into the meter. There’s about 15 numbers to put in and it takes ages. I had to change arms twice going under the stairs.

“I’m more concerned about people who would struggle to do that. A little old lady wouldn’t know what’s going on.

“This is bigger than me. I think they should be telling people if there is a problem.”

A spokesperson for British Gas said: “Mr Gillies has had to top up his meters manually due to an issue with a recent software upgrade on his meter.

“We are making arrangements for one of our engineers to visit Mr Gillies to put this right and can only apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
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