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Early consumer experiences of smart meters

17 June 2016

Citizens Advice, and its predecessor Consumer Futures have been actively involved in the rollout of smart meters since its earliest stages, actively representing the interests of energy consumers across Great Britain and ensuring that the value and benefit of the programme to consumers has remained paramount. As part of this advocacy role we closely monitor smart meter-related contacts to the Citizens Advice consumer service to allow us to identify any emerging issues consumers are facing with smart meters during the early stages of rollout. One area of repeat concern from consumers who contact us has been the loss of smart functionality (e.g. remote meter reads) upon switching supplier. These issues particularly relate to early smart and advanced meters which lack full interoperability (i.e. revert to traditional or ‘dumb’ mode) if the consumer switches supplier. These issues should be resolved for smart meters installed later in the rollout process with the launch of meters that meet the government’s newer specifications. Because of these issues Ofgem have required energy suppliers and switching sites to inform consumers of the potential risk of losing smart functionality when they switch with early smart meters.

As such we decided to undertake research examining the consumer experience of these early smart meters. The research sought to establish how consumers felt about their smart meters, and to examine experiences and awareness of any potential switching issues. We commissioned Accent to carry out this research, which was conducted in January and February 2016.

The consumers interviewed for the research had a generally positive experience of smart metering, but the results also identified some issues related to switching and loss of smart meter functionality, billing, viewing smart meter data, energy saving and installations.

The key findings of the research and relevant case notes of direct consumer contacts to the Citizens Advice consumer service are available in a research summary [ 450 kb], which also makes a number of recommendations for industry.

The full research report and detailed findings are available here [ 2.9 mb].