Consumer protections proposed for early rollout of smart meters in Britain


London, U.K. (METERING.COM) — July 4, 2011 – Britain’s energy regulator Ofgem has proposed a range of protections for consumers who are having smart meters installed now, in advance of the start of the government mandated national rollout in 2014.

The protections cover the three areas of prepayment and remote disconnection, data privacy, and supplier switching.

Smart metering allows suppliers to remotely switch customers from credit to prepayment and to disconnect customers remotely. Existing regulations need to be updated so that consumers can be confident of the same levels of protection with a smart meter, as now. Suppliers will only be able to switch a meter to prepayment mode where it is safe and reasonably practicable for the customer to use a prepayment meter. Suppliers will also need to make thorough checks on vulnerability if they are considering whether to switch the customer to prepayment mode or disconnect them for non-payment.

Ofgem wants to ensure that customers with smart meters do not face any barriers to switching because of any issues with the compatibility of meters with different suppliers. A consultation on safeguards will be undertaken later this summer. In the meantime consumer protection legislation requires suppliers to explain to customers their continued right to switch and issues they may face with switching.

Finally, Ofgem is also reminding suppliers that if they are offering smart meters they must provide customers with all relevant information about the data which they will collect and any rights which customers have to opt out of that data collection.

Subject to final consultation, these changes are expected to be in place this autumn.