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Are you losing money due to faulty electricity meter clocks?

Clock with light

They say time is money. But would you be surprised to hear that simply checking the clock on your electricity meter could save you hundreds of pounds a year? Clocks showing the wrong time are going unnoticed…

That’s the experience of a number of Which? members who have told us about problems with time-of-use tariffs, such as Economy 7 or Economy 10.

These types of tariff offer electricity at a cheaper rate during some hours and a higher one the rest of the time.

So, if your meter clock is wrong, you may find you’ve been charged over-the-odds for what you thought was cheaper electricity.

That’s what happened to Which? member Gary Day, who told us he found his own and his neighbours’ meter clocks were up to three hours out.

Thousands in over-payments

GaryRetired engineer Gary only spotted the problem when he went away for a few months, leaving just his heating on during the low-rate hours. When he returned he was shocked to discover a bill showing he had used most of his electricity at the higher rate.

Gary then found his and his neighbours’ clocks were all telling the wrong time and has told us how they won back about £2,300 in over-payments from supplier Swalec. He told us:

‘I have only checked four meters and every single one of them was wrong. I am horrified that there are probably hundreds of others that have these clock errors and don’t realise it.’

Checking your clock

Swalec said staff don’t have to check the clocks when they read meters – but added if they happen to notice any problems they must report them.

Unless the customer owns the meter, it is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure meter clocks are correct. However, current rules don’t require suppliers to check the clocks.

They do say suppliers must take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure the accuracy of the amount and time the electricity was supplied – but this isn’t exactly the same thing.

If you suspect your electricity meter is faulty, the supplier must investigate. But this means the emphasis is on you to check.

And that’s not always simple. Peak and off-peak times vary between tariffs, regions and seasons. Add the fact that the clock can be hard to find on many meters and it can become a pretty tricky task.

Do you think it’s fair that suppliers don’t have to check the accuracy of clocks? Have you found that your own clock is inaccurate?

Comments

There is a great deal of structural work involved in a heat pump system and the need to have vast amounts of heat outlets doesn’t help either. Supplemented with an additional boiler, it makes better sense, but that’s a lot of pipe work which ever way it is installed. It is all very well pinching heat from nature, but I would look to solar and wind as a better source for a modern house on an estate: that and some possible community heating system (with back up) in built when houses are planned. If this were electric, it could also provide power for car charging.

Anonymous says:
15 June 2021

Hi all,

I have two questions to ask if anyone knows the answers.

I have an E7 meter and my supplier says the night rate runs between midnight to 7am.

The clock for the E7 meter is an old style analogue clock which is out of synch with ‘actual’ time. Instead of switching over at midnight, the rate seems to switch over at around 8am.

I tried experimenting with the storage heaters, and between midnight to 7am they did not charge up at all, but they did charge up whilst I was at work between 8am-5pm.

My questions are:
1) Do storage heaters only turn on during the night rate, and
2) Am I charged the night rate according to the ‘actual’ time (i.e. midnight to 7am), or according to what time my E7 meter ‘thinks’ it is?

I have just had a new meter put in although the old one worked perfectly. I was supposed to have a smart meter but the guy couldn’t get a signal. Unfortunately he told me to send readings in manually as before but the new meter is not showing our Economy 7. I went to contact our energy company and low and behold they have ceased trading that morning . What can I do?

Dorothy – You will be transferred to another energy company by arrangements that Ofgem make when a company ceases trading. It is best not to make any separate changes yourself until that process has taken its course. After the transition period you will be able to decide whether you wish to stay with the the nominated supplier or choose an alternative. As and when the situation has settled down you can then request the installation of a smart meter [subject to a telecom signal, of course!] from whichever company you are with at the time. A new smart meter should be compatible with any energy company’s systems and tariffs which will make it easier to switch suppliers in future.

I note that Ofgem has appointed British Gas to take on customers of PfP Energy and MoneyPlus Energy which have just ceased trading. The handover takes effect from today. If either of those was your supplier you can read about the process on the Ofgem website here —
https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/ofgem-appoints-british-gas-take-customers-pfp-energy-and-moneyplus-energy

I see that two more of the UK’s smaller energy suppliers have ceased trading: Utility Point and People’s Energy. This will affect around 570,000 domestic consumers. It is likely that the companies have been caught our by the surge in energy prices on global markets. Only the biggest energy corporations can withstand such pressures which will ultimately reduce competition in the UK market.

Ofgem has yet to choose new suppliers to take over the domestic accounts. Many households have experienced two or more enforced changes as seven companies have closed over the last year with the uncertainty that accompanies such a change.

Consumers in credit will be concerned that any balances are returned or transferred in a timely manner and those on favourable fixed-term contracts might find their charges will be higher whether with the nominated new supplier or with any alternative company the customer chooses. The Ofgem safety net will ensure that there is continuity of supply and service and that customers’ balances are protected

There must come a limit on how many more transferred customers the ‘Big Six’ companies can absorb every time there is this form of instability without creating monopoly conditions.

Depending on where you look there are up to 85 domestic energy suppliers, the vast majority simply buying on the wholesale market. Many, probably most, will be undercapitalised, unable to forward buy energy and will be hit hard by the large increase in gas prices. Holding fixed price contracts with their customers is a recipe for failure.

Some drastic pruning seems inevitable, reducing the market to a more sensible number of suppliers. However all customers will have to fund the repayment of customers’ credit balances held by the failures.

Apparently, according to the BBC News website, four more small energy companies could collapse in the week ahead as a result of the steep rise in wholesale gas prices: “Industry sources have told the BBC that four firms have asked larger players to bid to take over the supply to one million customers.” The names of the companies have not yet been disclosed.

The article goes on to say that “at the beginning of 2021 there were 70 energy suppliers in the UK. Industry sources say there may be as few as 10 left by the end of the year.” See —
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58610561

The collapse of a further 50 or more firms over the course of three months would be an immense logistical challenge in reallocating all the customers affected to whichever suppliers have survived and absorbing their accounts. I can’t even contemplate how Ofgem is going to manage it successfully and protect consumer’s interests. Perhaps the government will have to nationalise some of the firms or enforce some amalgamations to create new companies and provide them with sufficient resources to enable them to operate for a specified period.

As well as transferring customer accounts the expiring companies’ supply contracts will all need to be disentangled and terminated or transferred at higher rates so the implications of such a situation might not be limited to customers of the firms at risk.

The light at the end of the tunnel of competitive energy pricing just went out.