Do I have to accept a smart meter?
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.
What is a smart meter?
The government has pushed back the deadline for the smart meter rollout until 2024, and you do have the right to refuse a smart meter if you don't want one.
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 2024 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 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.
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, everyone is paying for the smart meter roll-out through their energy bills. The cost of installing the smart meters is estimated at £11bn. Energy companies are meant to pass on cost savings to customers but there are concerns about the extent to which they'll do this.
- 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.
What data does my smart meter collect?
Your smart meter records information about how much gas and electricity you’ve used, but doesn’t store other personal information that could identify you, such as your name, address or bank account. Your Energy Supplier will continue to hold your personal details on your account.
All this information about your energy use is strongly protected. The law, which is explained in the Energy UK Data guide for smart meters, puts strict controls on:
- Your data
- Who can access it
- How you choose to share it
It’s your data – you choose what you want to do with it and you can change your mind about how much you share, and how often, at any time. The exception to this if where it is required for billing, and other regulated purposes. So, you can choose:
- How often your smart meter sends data to your gas and electricity supplier (monthly is minimum, daily or half-hourly are optional)
- Whether to share data about your energy use with other organisations, like price comparison sites
- If your supplier can use your meter readings for sales and marketing purposes
- Whether your supplier is allowed to share details about your energy consumption with other organisations
- How you can access information about your energy to get the most benefit out of it
If you wish to share your data with third parties (for example, energy switching sites to see what tariff you should be on) you have the right to do so.
Your energy supplier will collect meter readings remotely. If you do not make them aware of your preferences, they can collect a daily meter reading.
You will be able to see your near real time energy consumption data on your in-home display. If you want to download more detailed historic data, you can do so from your home network.
Your installer should talk you through how to read and understand your smart meter display.
Can I still switch suppliers with a smart meter?
In the short term, getting a first-generation smart meter could be a barrier to switching suppliers.
This is because first-generation meters don't yet connect to the central wireless network, called the Data Communication Company (DCC).
So, if you get a first-generation smart meter installed and you want to switch to a supplier that 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, many first-generation 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.
But a third of first-generation meters will need a different solution - and this hasn't been developed yet.
Ultimately, if you have a first-generation smart meter that doesn't connect to the wireless network, you'll need to have it replaced.
Energy suppliers installing smart meters should tell 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 you get a smart meter in a rented house?
If you or your housemates are renting a property and you’re paying the gas or electricity bills, you can choose to have a smart meter installed.
Check your tenancy agreement before you commit to getting one, as there might be a restriction in there about how energy is supplied to the property you’re renting.
This could include the type of meter that can be installed.
If your landlord pays for the energy bill, the decision on whether to get a smart meter or not is up to them.
Do I need my landlord's permission to install a smart meter?
If your tenancy agreement says you need ask permission to alter the meter, you should contact them.
Your landlord or letting agency shouldn’t unreasonably stop you from getting a smart meter.
Do I need to tell my landlord about my smart meter?
It’s a good idea to tell your landlord before you get a smart meter installed, even if your tenancy agreement doesn’t say you need to.
How to get a smart meter
Everyone is entitled to a smart meter, so if your energy company has offered to install a first or second-generation smart meter, 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 could be a rogue trader trying to scam you, so make sure you ask for official ID
- 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
Your rights after having a smart meter installed
If you’re paying more than usual, you get a bill you weren’t expecting, or your smart meter shows an error message, there may be a problem.
If you feel your smart meter is faulty, or not registering your data correctly, contact your supplier – they are responsible for making sure your meter works properly and they should send someone round to take a look at the problem.
Smart meter installers should talk to you about how to use your smart meter, as well as provide advice on important safety issues – such as how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.