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Metric gas meters: are you due a refund?

Metric meter

The old metric vs. imperial debate is one that refuses to die down. It’s emerged yet again this week after it was revealed that E.on gas customers have been paying inaccurate bills due to misread metric gas meters…

Reading your meter is one of those annoying little tasks that crops up every few months. You get a short letter or email asking for your information so that your energy supplier can ‘provide you with an accurate bill’. So, off you go in search of the funny plastic key (if you have one) to open the box and take a look.

At least once you’ve put your reading in – something I now do via an app – that’s pretty much it. My energy supplier then turns my meter reading into a bill, and what I get is an accurate amount to pay. Job done.

Except this isn’t what’s been happening for thousands of energy customers.

Misread gas meters

Thousands of people have been over-charged for their gas because, unbelievably, the wrong units of measurement were being used. Customers had their old imperial measuring meters swapped out for metric ones, but E.on still read them as though they were in cubic feet rather than cubic metres.

One person had been overpaying for over 15 years without knowing it! On the flip side, others were found to have been underpaying by as much as 65%.

So far the mix up has been attributed to ‘human error’ on the part of the energy companies.

Ofgem has given all energy suppliers until Friday to identify other customers who may have been affected, calling on suppliers to issue refunds for overcharging.

Trust in the energy market

Whichever way you cut it, it’s not a boon for confidence in the energy market that expensive mistakes like this are getting made. It’s probably not surprising that Which? research has found people generally distrust energy suppliers.

That’s not to say the response has been all bad. E.on has announced that it will be offering a refund to those affected plus interest, and are waiving the extra charges for those who’ve underpaid.

This is exactly the kind of good treatment of customers that we’d like to see more of.

Following on from the Competition and Markets Authority’s two year energy inquiry, we think now’s time to start rebuilding trust in the energy market. Energy companies should improve their behaviour and deliver on the CMA’s remedies as quickly and effectively as possible.

Do you know if you’ve been affected by the metric gas meter misreadings? If so, how did you find out and what help have you been offered to fix the problem?


Why inflate this into something it may not be? It was not Which? that “discovered” this, it was E.ON who reported it to Ofgem. Oh, perhaps I should claim to have “discovered “it – from a public email from Ofgem that I reported 2 days ago on the Convo “Why should you switch your energy supplier” as follows:

“A small number of gas customers are affected by an error in metric/imperial conversion by the energy supplier(s). Reported by E.ON to Ofgem. Ofgem have issued the following instructions to all energy suppliers who are involved. Those overcharged will be refunded plus interest and given an ex gratia payment. Those undercharged will not have to pay the difference; vulnerable customers will be given transitional arrangements to help them back to a correct charging system. It seems a very fair resolution to me.


Any opportunity taken to s**g off companies like this it seems. Unless, of course, Which? know more than Ofgem are letting on – give us their link perhaps. Personally I like to see these issues presented factually – how many are affected? Thousands as Which tells us? 10 000 would be 0.04% of households. And Which? is very grudging in explaining the remedy – no one will pay for underpaid bills, and overpaid bills will be compensated. And “lack of trust”?; it seems E.ON discovered the problem and made it known. Seems pretty trustworthy. More than Which? claiming to have “discovered” this when they appear to have simply “reported” it.

Frankly, I am getting tired of Which?’s apparent policy of using any information to attack certain people, like energy companies and car manufacturers. I can buy a “red top” if I want that sort of inflammatory reporting, often based on shaky or incorrect information. Will Which? return to being objective, balanced and impartial or does it see whipping up public opinion as its charitable role? .

Hello Malcolm, thanks for your comment, and for sharing the update on convo.

I agree that the opening paragraph is a little confusing here, ‘we’ is meant in a collective way to explain that this news came to the public’s attention this week – Which? did not discover this like you say, so we’ve changed the opening line so as not to cause confusion. Currently it’s not known exactly how many people could be affected so Ofgem has called on all energy suppliers to review and report back by Friday.

Thanks Lauren 🙂

I praise E.On for coming clean, fessing up, and getting it sorted. Restores my faith in German industry.

John says:
19 August 2016

Can we have a detailed explanation of how we can check if we are on metric or imperial ,and how to work the calculation .

I suppose the easy way is to look at your meter. Metric will be marked m3 (maybe cu. m) and imperial ft3 or cu. ft. A metric meter usually has the right hand numbers outlined in red; an imperial meter may have all dials, or digital plus a right hand dial.

Your bill should tell you whether your readings are taken as 100’s of cubic feet, or cubic meters, before they are converted to units (kWh).

Stephen says:
19 August 2016

I changed provider about a year ago and my current provider has advised me that my monthly standing order should be reduced because I am not using the amount of gas that I advised them on switchover. Could my old supplier have been over charging me? And if so do I have to make a claim?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Your old supplier should have the final meter readings when you switched to your new supplier. These should appear on your final bill. Check those against the readings you gave them.

I don’t know whether we have overpaid or not (or indeed underpaid), but BG have recently been pushing me to phone through ‘meter readings,’ which I have declined to do AND argued with them about. When we signed up with BG ( after a long dispute with a previous provider)it was on the understanding that ‘they’ would do ‘quarterly’ readings. It turns out that a) they haven’t been doing so for some time and b) they then backpedalled and said that they now only do a ‘once in two year’ meter reading.’
Not good enough when their express agreement said that ‘BG would continue to do quarterly readings.’

Michael Royston Gamble says:
19 August 2016

Our gas provider is Eon and we have been credited just under £300.Thankyou E.on

Merlin Touchwood says:
19 August 2016

I change my supplier almost every year so how will I know if I’ve been overcharged ,my query is ,when I changed suppliers am I refunded if I’ve paid by standing order and been overcharged

Graham G says:
19 August 2016

This article shows what a Cubic Feet Meter looks like, but why not also show a picture of what a Metric meter looks like to help people recognise which one they have. Also how can one open the meter box to check one’s readings without having a key.

Good point Graham G…

Also just to note that some people don’t need a key to access their gas meter, you usually only need a key if your meter is outside of your home 🙂

The key is the same for all meter boxes for both gas and electric,They used to supply a key with each box,Any diy store will have them or a pair of pin nosed pliers would do the job it is not a lock as such but a latch just turn through90 degrees when the door is open all will be revealed.

Thanks for that. My gas meter shows cubic feet(ft3) Now what do I do? My suppliers are npower.

npower should have your meter registered and will know it is in cu.ft. It is only some customers who have been affected.
Ofgem say:
“The cause of the issue has yet to be fully determined but we understand that human error and poor data flows between industry participants upon meter installation, exchange, and change of supplier are factors.
Identifying affected meters
The affected supplier (E.ON) has taken action to identify affected customers, and through Energy UK, notified other suppliers that they may be affected by the same issue.
Energy UK members have committed to Ofgem to identify affected customers by 19 August 2016.”

keith says:
19 August 2016

what happens if you had these type of meters since 2005 but changed to prepay key meters in 2013.
is there no way to trace if we have been overcharged for those first 8 yrs ?

The meter box key is not an individual key but is generic to most if not all gas and electric meter boxes.They would have supplied a key with each box ,these can be obtained from any diy store.or a pair of pin nosed pliers worked just as well ,it’s not a lock but more a latch, just turn through 90 degrees and the door usually opens quite easly although best not done in frosty conditions ,originally these were made of metal but now are plastic which can become brittle in very cold conditions and can break if excessive force is used even when using the correct key.

Our meter boxes require different keys – one with a triangular socket, the other with a square one. They are both on a plastic ‘utility key’ obtainable from hardware stores, ironmongers, DIY shops etc. There is also a round socket on one corner of the key but I haven’t found anything that it opens yet and since it would slip round on a round spigot without engaging the latch I feel it must be useless.

On the same theme, several years ago my wife’s aunt was being overcharged for her electricity (no gas in the town, so she had night storage heaters ), with the night rate figures being charged at the full day rate and vice versa. The meter reader was entering the figures in the wrong columns and had been doing so for a few years. When we sussed out what had happened and notified EDF, they were extremely unhelpful. We had to demand that they turn up all the old readings and the bills in order to recalculate and claim back well over £1000 for our aunt. EDF were unwilling to do the recalculation, but when presented with our figures they made the refund.

I was away on business, from July 2001, until early September 2001. Until then, from January 1996, I was with MEB (‘leccy), @ £25/month Direct Debit, with £25/annum rebate, a total of £275/annum ‘leccy. There was no heating, or hot water on this, as both were on gas (BG). I was oft away all week during these years, camping out 3-4 nights most weeks. I did not know that the MEB went out of business during the 3rd quarter of 2001, or why, until I recieved the quarterly invoice, from BG in late September 2001. I sacked BG when they refused to put me on Direct Debit, and moved to npower, on Direct Debit. They then, mistakenly switched me back to quarterly, and the next quarter I went to Powergen, with the same story repeating itself. I ended up with £500 arrears @ Powergen, + £500 legal expences, all of which I refused to pay. They then put me on a pre-pay card, with £5/week for debt. i changed to EDF, and finally, have been with eBico for several years now. It has only cost me £120-£130/annum for the past few years, and I have had no heating, or hot water, for the past 6 years, since my landlord, Sandwell MBC, rendered my heating/hot water “safe”, afer the E7 boiler gave up the ghost. I have had no gas since I had the meter ripped out, 18th August, 1998. Fortunately, I do not need heating/hot water, as the cold is much better for my health. I now wonder why it was costing me so much for ‘leccy back then, + gas for heating/hot water. I equally wonder if BG/MEB/Powergen owe me big-time. It is currently costing me far less than half as much for ‘leccy, despite me being home every night, as a pensioner.

Bill – You cannot normally pursue claims more than six years after you become aware of a problem, so going back fifteen years will be virtually impossible, especially since the companies involved have changed. You now seem to be satisfied with your electricity supplier and say you don’t need heating and hot water which means you are being very economical. It might be better now to stop worrying about the past and make the best of the present and the future.

Dorothy says:
19 August 2016


I still don’t understand how this could have been an issue, aren’t ALL meters centrally registered?

On a slightly different note I wonder how many companies send out meter reading letters asking for GAS then leccy yet have a website designed to ask for leccy then gas. Took me months to get EDF to change so they matched. I wonder how many people would have been putting leccy reading in for gas and vice versa

Gas and electricity meters are registered centrally, but will rely upon the correct information being given to the registry. Mistakes will happen. I had a problem switching suppliers because it seemed my property had 4 electricity meters on their system and the wrong one was being referenced in making the switch. Resolved once discovered – I do only have one meter! Presumably meters had been changed but not properly recorded. Humans to blame.

C Solano says:
20 August 2016

“If you don’t know, it’s worth checking with your supplier.” What is this supposed to mean: I ring my gas supplier and they will say,’Yes, we have been overcharging you’ or ‘No, we have not been overcharging you’. Is it that simple? Will they admit they have been overcharging me? If they say No, how can I be sure they are telling the truth?

They should be able to tell you what units are being recorded, although this should be obvious from your bill. Ofgem require all affected customers to be contacted by their energy supplier, so there really should be no need to take any action.
Ofgem’s letter can be found here:

Don’t quite get this, cubic meters are much bigger than cubic feet so why didn’t the bills go down??? You would have used less cubic meters. How did it go wrong?
Also would have thought it would be obvious there must be about 30 cubic feet to 1 cubic meter. Were they reading in 10ths of a cubic meter perhaps.

A cubic metre is around 35 cubic feet. Imperial gas meters generally register in 100s of cubic feet. 100 cu.ft = 2.83 cu.m.
If you have an imperial meter that is wrongly recorded as being a metric one your readings will lead to only 35% of your actual usage being charged.
If you have a metric meter that is wrongly recorded as being an imperial one, then you will be charged for 2.83 times your real usage.

I have a imperial Meter-I was with E-on for years, Gas & Elec I changed to N Power a few months ago will I hear from E-on if they owe me money as I am no longer a customer.
I do use a lot of gas in the winter months. Since being with N power my Direct Debit has been less.

howcan I tell if I havean imperial or metric meter?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Lauren has put a picture of each further up this page. A metric meter has the last digits outlined in red

R Hills says:
21 August 2016

Ovo Energy installed smart meters for me and after some time I noticed that my gas bills seemed to be higher.I queried this with them and they realised that the conversion factor for the gas meter was incorrect.This was put right the same day and the overcharge reimbursed.Other customers may be in the same position unless Ovo have checked and rectified all their customer accounts.

22 August 2016

It pays to check meter readings when the bill arrives, if not at the time of reading. My last gas bill showed 170 units used. With no evident appreciable difference in usage and an actual (not estimated) reading, this was a hefty increase on an average half-yearly amount of 128 – which I checked from four previous bills. Divided by 26 weeks this reading works out at roughly 6.5 units p/w against average 4.9. I left it for 3 weeks after this reading to check further usage, which then showed a difference of just 8 units. That works out at around 2.7 units p/w usage(!?) Faulty meter or wrong last reading? I’ll keep an eye on it, but know which I suspect and, if correct, my next bill should show around 70 units – NOT 170!