Faulty smart meter? Here’s how to tell and what to do next

Almost four million smart meters aren’t working properly in the UK, meaning you could be being overcharged for your gas and electricity.

With increasing energy prices we all want to keep an eye on what we’re using every day. Millions of us have taken Government advice, switching to smart meters to keep a handle on our daily usage.

But new figures released by the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) reveal that 3.98 million meters were not operating in smart mode at the end of last year. If a meter is not working in smart mode, then it has a connection or technical issue and bills sent out will be estimates – meaning customers could be overcharged.

So how do you know if your smart meter is working properly and if it isn’t, what can you do about it? We’ve got the best advice.

A close up of a person's hand holding a smart meterCredit: Shutterstock /Serge Cornu

What does a smart meter do?

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters measure how much gas and electricity a household uses and shares that information in near-real time.

When your meter is working in smart mode, it will send this information to your energy supplier via a wireless network similar to the internet.

However, if it loses connection, an estimated bill is sent out and is only corrected if you, the customer, sends in a meter reading. This fault has left some customers facing huge, incorrect bills.

Advertisement

When smart meters go wrong

Patrick Langmaid, a caravan park owner in Cornwall, had a direct debit taken by his supplier for £244,000 – about 100 times the normal amount. He had to involve his local MP, with the process taking nine days to sort out.

“It is a smart meter but clearly not the smartest,” he said. “It was outrageous, though when it was finally all sorted out, TotalEnergies did give me £1,000 compensation, which I donated to a local food bank. However, my lawyer said they weren’t obliged to compensate us.”

How many faulty meters are there?

Almost four millions homes are affected

Smart Energy GB is a non-profit, government-backed organisation, which highlights the benefits of smart meters. It says there are now almost 35 million smart meters in the UK and the ‘vast majority’ are operating as intended.

The organisation says 88.6% of meters were operating in smart mode at the end of 2023, up from 87.3% the previous year.

These latest figures from DESNZ add that while some 4.31 million meters were not operating in smart mode as of June 2023, that figure decreased to 3.98 million by the end of last year.

It is an improvement, but some experts say that the smart meter rollout isn’t going well.

“It’s been a massive, massive shambles,” consumer rights expert Martyn James, told Saga Magazine.

“Smart meters are a good idea when they work. But the first generation of systems in homes barely worked at all. The second works for most households. But a large chunk of the UK population is stuck with a smart meter that doesn’t work.

“There’s a huge delay replacing the early ones, a huge delay for people waiting for their first smart meter, and many of the benefits touted have turned out to be moonshine. Years into the rollout, there are still stories about this fiasco in the press almost every week.”

How to check your smart meter is working

Has your smart meter got a fault?

The easiest way to check your smart meter is working properly is to look at your bills.

  • Look at your latest bill or statement or your supplier’s app and check that your readings are marked as ‘smart’.
  • If there is an ‘e’ marked on the bill, then it is an estimated meter reading rather than an accurate smart meter reading.
  • It’s also worth checking how often your smart meter is set to send readings to your provider – this could be monthly, hourly, or half-hourly. Increasing the frequency could improve the accuracy of your bills.

What can cause problems with your smart meter

Elizabeth Blakelock, principal policy manager at Citizens Advice, told BBC News that to ensure your smart meter is sending information to your energy provider, three things need to be working.

  • The meter itself – this is usually found on your wall or in your cupboard.
  • The in-home display unit or app which shows how much energy you are using.
  • The wireless communication between your meter and the system your energy provider uses to receive readings.

If any of those are faulty, then you may be getting estimated bills. If that is happening you need to submit meter readings to your supplier.

Citizens Advice also has an online tool to help you check whether your meter is working properly.

Advertisement

Does switching off my in-home display make a difference?

You don’t need to keep the display switched on

The in-home display does not have to be switched on for your bills to be correct (and some people with smart meter anxiety choose not to use it), but if there is a problem it’s worth turning it on to see if it’s working properly.

If it isn’t, try moving it closer to your meter, checking its battery or if it’s plugged in. You can also check out your supplier’s website for more troubleshooting tips.

If the display can’t be fixed and its within 12 months of installation, then your supplier should replace it free of charge unless you damaged it yourself. After 12 months they may charge you a fee.

My smart meter has a fault – what do I do?

Contact your energy supplier

If your bill doesn’t match your meter reading contact your energy supplier to tell them the correct reading. This will help short-term.

Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, says suppliers must replace faulty meters. If they haven’t done so within eight weeks, contact the Energy Ombudsman.

Advertisement
Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Published:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

  • instagram
  • Email