Smart meters: Consumer engagement takes hits in UK and Canada

Until the Data and Communications Company is active, UK consumers will lose two-way communication with their energy company if they switch supplier – a fact that has not been made clear to UK consumers, critics claim

In the UK, the delay in launching the Data and Communications Company to manage smart meter information is giving rise to consumer concerns about the implications of switching energy supplier.

A report in Telegraph Money, part of The Daily Telegraph newspaper group, stated that millions of smart meter customers are effectively “trapped” with their energy supplier unless they give up the new technology.

In the period until the Data and Communication Company is functioning, switching suppliers will means that smart meters will lose two-way communication between the customer and energy supplier.

Households will have to rely on estimated bills, like a traditional meter.

Critics are claiming that the limitation of the GBP11 billion roll-out is not being properly explained to households.

Telegraph Money said that when it pressed Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Smart Energy GB, the government-funded body responsible for promoting smart meters, he admittted that: “If [people] switch, smart functionality and therefore being able to see pounds and pence will be lost – their meter will work like a traditional meter.”

But all existing meters will become smart again once the network is introduced in April, Mr Deshmukh said. “Once the DCC goes live, their meter will be brought into the network and be fully smart again, with no need for an extra visit from an engineer,” he claimed.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change, the government department responsible for overseeing the introduction of the new software, said that the April deadline still stood – but admitted a further, six-month delay “was possible”.

Smart meter failure

Meanwhile, in other consumer news, Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli last week faced questioning after a smart meter caught fire on the side of a consumer’s home in Collingwood.

The Electrical Safety Authority is investigating the incident and has not determined if the meter, the installation or some other cause is to blame, Mr Chiarelli told local media.

Chiarelli said the failed meter was one of 4.8 million units installed in the province, and the local government will await the result of the authority’s investigation.