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Smart meter advert banned for misleading consumers

Find out more about whether a smart meter could really save you money on your energy bills

Smart meter

A radio advert by Smart Energy GB has been banned for making ‘misleading’ claims that consumers could save money simply by getting a smart meter installed.

Fourteen listeners complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the Smart Energy GB advert, believing that its savings claims were misleading.

Although Smart Energy GB asserted that the advert qualifies that savings are possible by reducing wastage, not the smart meter itself, the ASA upheld the complaints.

If you’re keen to reduce your energy bills, make sure you’re on the right energy deal by comparing gas and electricity prices using Which? Switch. 

Smart Energy GB’s smart meter advert

The Smart Energy GB advert, which aired on radio in July 2018, said: ‘Crikey, we use so much energy everyday it is exhausting. And expensive. But with a smart meter you get an expected average saving of 354kWh.’

Just getting a smart meter on its own isn’t enough to cut your energy bills. Instead, it can be used to help you understand what appliances and activities cost most, and therefore help you to change the way you use your energy.

The advert ended with the line: ‘Savings possible by measuring energy usage and reducing wastage.’

Smart Energy GB believes that this made it sufficiently clear that the savings were only possible as a result of customer action, not the smart meter itself.

It says it will appeal the ruling, adding: ‘The ASA agrees with us that if we all get a smart meter we could save enough energy to power Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle.

‘However, we disagree with the ASA’s ruling on a technical point around the use of terms and conditions and disclaimers in the advert and are appealing their decision.’

What are smart meters and can they save me money

Smart meters essentially monitor the amount of energy you use, and send the information back to your energy company.

This means that they should put an end to estimated bills, as energy companies will no longer have to guess how much energy you’ll use. You also won’t have to give meter readings any more, or have someone come to your house to check them.

In theory, a smart meter could help you to lower your energy bills – but only if you take action on the information. Each meter comes with an in-house display, giving you real-time knowledge of what you’re using and what it’s costing.

Our survey of 2,910 smart meter owners (September 2018), found that 34% think their energy use has reduced since getting a smart meter, although 20% think it has increased.

According to the government, smart meters will cut £47 a year, on average, from a dual-fuel bill by 2030. But this is mostly from cutting costs, such as engineers doing meter readings, and there’s no guarantee that these operational savings will be passed on to consumers by suppliers. The smart meter roll-out itself will add around £391 to the bills of the average dual-fuel household – a figure that has already risen by £17 since the government’s 2016 prediction.

There have been a lot of setbacks and concerns about the smart meter roll-out, and the government has asked all energy companies to make every effort to offer them to all households by 2020. Read on to find out how this might affect you.

For all you need to know about smart meters, including common questions, visit our guide to smart meters.

Smart meter roll-out: how it will affect you

Woman looking at energy bills

The smart meter roll-out has been fraught with problems, including delays. It was due to officially begin in 2016, but the start date was pushed back multiple times.

By September 2018, energy suppliers had installed more than 13.65m smart meters in homes in Britain – 32.35m less than the target amount the large energy firms need to install by the end date.

Also, with the government pushing energy suppliers to meet the deadline, millions more ‘older’ smart meters, called first-generation (or SMETS1), have been installed than intended. These types of meters will often go ‘dumb’ if a consumer switches energy supplier, reverting it back to an old-style meter where manual readings need to be taken. It won’t stop you from being able to switch, but could discourage you from doing so if you want to keep the smart functionality working.

Each delay will reduce the financial benefit of the roll-out by around £150m, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at the end of 2018. A report by the National Audit Office at the same time said that the estimated cost of the smart meter roll-out has spiralled by £500m since 2016’s £11bn figure.

Take control of your spending by visiting our guide to cutting your energy bills.

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