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Meter examiners
If you think that a meter is not functioning properly, complain first to the supplier (or gas transporter, as appropriate) who can inspect it. High energy bills may be due to a faulty meter that is incorrectly recording the amount of gas or electricity you are using; however, this is unusual.
Your supplier may try a simple test of the meter without moving it, such as putting a check meter to run alongside your meter for a week or two or undertaking a meter test. If you are still not satisfied, refer the matter to an independent meter examiner. You are legally entitled to request an independent test of your gas or electricity meter to check for inaccuracy or faults. The supplier/transporter can also make the referral. Although the test is free, you may have to pay your energy supplier for organising it if your meter is found to be performing correctly and accurately recording consumption afterwards.
If a meter seems to be over-registering and inaccurate, you should, if you can afford to, pay the supplier for the amount of fuel you think you have definitely consumed, without waiting for the examiner’s decision. This will help effectively neutralise the threat of disconnection and the dispute will be considered a genuine one (see here).
If the meter is removed, suppliers must install a replacement meter of the same type and leave the supply connected on the same terms as before, unless they are exercising powers to disconnect. There should be no charge for this.
Since January 2018, the electricity meter examiner’s service is contracted out to the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It supersedes the Regulatory Delivery directorate and the National Measurement and Regulation Office before that. An examiner will test the meter and the supply at your home. S/he will discuss with you your concerns and queries, check the meter for accuracy and whether it was installed correctly. The supplier will be invited to send a representative to be present while the examiner tests the meter at your home. Depending on the results obtained, the meter may then be removed for further tests at an Ofgem approved laboratory. Where the meter needs to be removed, a replacement will be fitted. The examiner will issue you a report, called a ‘determination’, with her/his findings. It will confirm whether the meter is within or outside prescribed legal limits, accurate and operating correctly. This concludes the meter examination and is final and binding. Copies of the determination are sent to you, your electricity supplier and the owner of the meter. An electricity meter examiner’s services are free but the supplier is likely to charge in cases where no defect or inaccuracy is found by the examiner. Take a note of the reading on the meter and meter serial number before it is removed.
If the examiner’s determination makes a finding of meter inaccuracy or fault, the supplier may compensate the consumer for over-billing or prepare a payment plan for you where under-billing has occurred.
If a notice is served by you, the electricity supplier or anyone else interested in the matter, then no one can alter or remove the meter until the dispute is resolved or an electricity meter examiner has finished her/his examination.
The findings of an electricity meter examiner can be produced in court and are presumed to be correct unless proven otherwise.
Gas meter examiners are also contracted out to the OPSS. If there is a dispute about meter accuracy, they will not attend your home for an on-site visit; but will request that your supplier sends them the meter for examination. Make a note of the reading and meter serial number before it is removed. The meter will be removed, securely packaged and sent to an Ofgem approved laboratory for testing by an independent examiner. The examiner will undertake performance checks on the meter and ascertain if there are faults that can affect its accuracy and operation. The examiner will issue you a report, called a ‘certificate’, with her/his findings. It will confirm if the meter is within or outside prescribed legal limits, accurate, operating correctly as well as if any fault exists causing unreliable meter readings. If your meter is faulty, the certificate will say it is a failure and give details of the fault. This will conclude the meter examination and is final and binding. Copies of the certificate are sent to you, your gas supplier and the owner of the meter.
The supplier may charge you for the removal of the disputed meter, installing a replacement, transporting the disputed meter for testing and reinstalling the meter at your property. This charge will be refunded if the disputed meter is found to be operating inaccurately or faulty. The charges made for meter examining vary – check with your supplier.
If your meter is found not to be working properly, the supplier has to make a refund, compensation or an extra charge to you. The amount of the refund or compensation depends on how long and by how much the meter is thought to have been registering incorrectly.
For electricity, the meter examiner has a duty to give her/his opinion concerning for how long and by how much the meter has been operating outside the prescribed limits. For gas, the meter is deemed to have been registering incorrectly for the whole period since the last actual meter reading. You should argue that this should be resolved in your favour. For example, if the gas meter was over-registering, you should receive the entire extra amount charged, but if the gas meter was under-registering, you should argue that you should only pay that part which exceeds the 2 per cent limit of variation.
Older gas meters may run fast – ie, they may over-register the amount of gas consumed. This is because they use a leather diaphragm to measure the amount of gas used and this can dry out. Since 1 April 1981, gas suppliers have installed only meters with synthetic diaphragms, which are more reliable. If you have an older meter and you suspect it is recording inaccurately, you can refer it to a meter examiner. New meters may be distinguished from old ones as they have either a yellow label with a large ‘S’ on the meter casing or a reference number which begins or ends with an ‘S’. Often the supplier will simply replace the old meter since it is recognised that leather diaphragm meters may be prone to drift into over-reading after a substantial period of years. Note that if a meter is removed by the supplier because it has made an allegation that it has been tampered with (see Chapter 9), it is important that the meter is preserved so that it can be inspected after removal. Each supplier sets out in its relevant code of practice how long it will keep a meter in such circumstances before destroying it. Check that the code of practice is being followed.