Can I refuse a smart meter?

While Britain has set itself an ambitious target of fitting every home with smart meters by 2020, you do have the right to refuse a smart meter if you don't want one. 

Now that the official roll-out has started, energy companies have been asked to take 'all reasonable steps' to install smart meters in every home. 

If it hasn't already, your energy supplier will contact you between now and 2020 to arrange an installation. But remember that you can still say no to having a smart meter installed.

If you really don't want a smart meter, make this clear to your supplier and they may be able to install a traditional energy meter or set up a smart meter to work in 'dumb' mode, with all the communications switched off.

Be aware that if your energy company has contacted you to change your energy meter to a smart meter because your current meter needs replacing (ie it's too old), then you should get it replaced as it could be a safety hazard not to.

If you are having issues with a smart meter that's already been installed, you may find it useful to read our guide on the key things to know about your smart meter rights.

In summary

If your energy company has contacted you to change to a smart meter because your current meter needs replacing, it could be a safety hazard not to. 

But if you really don't want a smart meter, tell your supplier.

Concerns with smart meters

Here are some of the concerns people have about smart meters and the roll-out:

  • Estimated cost  While there will be no upfront charge to customers being transferred to a smart meter, the cost of installing smart meters in the national roll-out is estimated at £11bn. There are concerns that this will ultimately be passed on to customers through their energy bills.
  • Security & privacy  Who can see your consumption data and what can they do with it?
  • Health  Concerns about radio frequencies and electromagnetic radiation produced. The evidence to date suggests exposure to radio waves produced by smart meters doesn't pose a risk to your health. Public Health England provides advice and information on the health implications of smart meters, which can be found on the PHE website.

What makes the meter 'smart'?

  • Smart meters record your household energy use
  • They can show you how much energy you're using in real time on an in-home display
  • They provide information about the energy you use directly to you or your supplier without anyone having to read the meter
  • This should mean no more estimated bills, so you’ll only be paying for the gas and electricity you actually use

Visit our detailed Which? guide on smart meters to find out more about what smart meters can do, how safe they are and whether you could save money using one.

Can I decide what data is shared?

Your energy company, and the energy networks, can access appropriate data remotely to enable them to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.

It is up to you to decide how much data your energy supplier collects from your smart meter, eg monthly, daily or half-hourly. If you do not inform your supplier of your preferences, they can collect a daily meter read.

You can also decide whether your supplier can use your meter reads for sales and marketing purposes.

You will also be able to share data with third parties (such as switching sites) if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you.

How you access information about your energy use and get the most benefit from it is also a choice you can make. You are also allowed to change your mind about any of your choices at any time.

If you are worried about the data your smart meter collects, read our guide on what data your smart meter is allowed to collect about you.

For more information on making any of the choices above or any other questions about your data, contact your energy supplier.

Can I still switch suppliers with a smart meter?

In the short term, getting a first generation SMETS1 smart meter could be a barrier to switching suppliers.

This is because first generation SMETS1 meters don't yet connect to the central data body, called the Data Communication Company (DCC). 

So, if you get a first generation smart meter installed and you want to switch to a supplier which doesn't support your smart meter, you may find that the 'smart' functionality of your meter no longer works.  

If this happens, you'd have to take manual readings again, like you would if you had a traditional meter.

At some point during the roll-out before the 2020 target deadline, all first generation SMETS1 smart meters will be remotely connected to the DCC network. 

When this happens, you wouldn't have to do anything - it wouldn't require a visit from a technician.

Ofgem has introduced rules for smart meters, which includes a requirement that a supplier installing a smart meter must inform you if you might lose meter functionality when changing supplier.

Will a smart meter fit in my property?

Smart meters should generally be suitable for most property types, but there are exceptions – for example, if you live in a high-rise flat with a meter in the basement. For more information on this, contact your supplier.

Typically, your new smart meter goes exactly where your traditional gas and electricity meters were. 

Can I get a smart meter if I rent? 

If you rent your property and your gas and electricity bills are addressed to you rather than your landlord, you don’t need your landlord’s permission to get a smart meter (although you should inform them). 

If your landlord pays the bills, you should check with them first before arranging your smart meter installation.

How to get a smart meter

Everyone is entitled to a smart meter, so if your energy company has offered to install a SMETS1 or SMETS2, read our guide on what you need to know about the smart meter roll-out

Some of us may have to wait longer than others, but you can ask your supplier to see if you can get yours fitted now if you do want one.

Visit our detailed Which? guide on smart meters for more information on getting a smart meter installed, and a breakdown of the varying smart meter offerings from a range of energy suppliers.

Beware rogue traders

  • Doorstep visitors or phone calls claiming they want to make an appointment to install a smart meter are likely to be a rogue trader trying to scam you
  • Your energy supplier will contact you directly about smart meters
  • It will always be your energy supplier or a third party working on behalf of your energy company that will come to your house to change your meter.

Rights around the smart meter installation process

Before you are supplied with a smart meter, your energy supplier should contact you to arrange a time and date that suits you.

They should also tell you:

  • What to expect
  • How long the installation will take
  • If there are any steps you need to do before the installation can take place

There are also a number of consumer protection provisions you should have as part of your smart meter installation.

These include the following:

  • There must be no sales during the installation visit and installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit
  • Your smart meter installer also needs your permission in advance of the visit, if they are planning to talk about their own products
  • If your installer tries to upsell you, or fails to provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit, they are in breach of these rules and you should notify your energy supplier
  • You will also have a choice about how your energy consumption data is used, apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes

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