Meter tampering: European utilities kit up to tackle revenue theft


In Europe, energy companies are taking a firm line against meter tampering and customer resistance to prepayment installation.

In the southern European country of Cyprus, three people are in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of tampering with their home electricity meter.

The arrests are a small sample of the tampering problem after local media reported auditor general Chrystalla Giorgatzi’s estimation that a third of all electricity meters in Cyprus have been altered.

Ms Giorgatzi said a growing number of households in Cyprus are involved in meter tampering as people struggle to pay rising fuel bills, according to the Famagusta Gazette.

In 2008, of 3,177 meters inspected, 2,373 had been tampered with and showed billing irregularities.
There are no official statistics for the amount of energy stolen in this way, but it is estimated millions of euros are lost every year.
The Cyprus Electricity Authority has gradually started to replace old metering stock with prepayment models fitted with anti-tamper modules.

Resistance to prepaid meters

UK, Cyprus Prepaid meter tampering
Meter tampering: the UK has forcibly installed more than 97,000 gas and electricity meters in homes in 2014, according to

Meanwhile in the UK, two leading energy firms have issued staff with stab vests to protect them from attack by customers who are tampering with gas and electricity meters or refusing to pay their bills.

The protective clothing has been given to almost 400 employees of British Gas and EDF Energy who investigate energy theft or forcibly install pre-payment meters in households who run up debts, reports

The move to protect staff comes as the industry reports about 25,000 cases of electricity theft each year, with a third of all stolen electricity estimated to be used to power illegal cannabis farming operations.

More than 97,000 gas and electricity meters were forcibly installed in homes in 2014, up from about 64,000 in 2009.

The figures peaked at more than 111,000 in 2013 after a series of energy-price rises.

British Gas, which last year blamed the trend on the “difficult economic climate”, said because of the nature of the work its energy theft teams do, the supplier has made protective clothing available to them.

A spokesman for EDF Energy said: “Our staff are issued with stab vests when carrying out debt-related customer visits or visits where the meter has been tampered with.”

About 180 staff at the company have been issued with the vests, which were introduced “following a risk assessment”, she added.

Energy regulator Ofgem has called on suppliers to do more to tackle the issue, which is estimated to cost as much as GBP500 million a year – or GBP20 for every bill-paying household that is forced to pick up the tab.