/ Home & Energy

Our smart meter challenge to help stop stealth sales

Can you imagine someone coming round to install your new smart meter, then trying to flog you cavity wall insulation? No? Well, you may not be as imaginative as our sales-savvy energy companies.

By 2020 the government wants every home in Great Britain to have a smart meter. It will cost over £11 billion and we are likely to pay for it via our bills.

This meter will be smart because it will communicate directly with the supplier and so cut out the need for meter readings. They’re a great idea, because as well as passing this info to your supplier, they’ll also let you see your own energy usage. This could help you reduce energy consumption and, in turn, lower your bills.

So what’s the catch?

The government is encouraging smart meter installations to include advice on energy efficiency. This includes installers telling you about other energy efficiency products that you could buy straight from them! Moreover, we’ve found job adverts from energy companies insisting that potential smart meter installers should have ‘a good head for sales.’

Am I weird in hoping that they just have ‘a good head for installing my smart meter and then leaving me alone’?

Great though smart meters are, we’re worried that energy companies have spotted an excellent opportunity to sneak salespeople through your front door. Our research shows that 93% of people wouldn’t let an energy salesperson into their home, and 30% wouldn’t even open the door to them.

I don’t want your stealth salespeople

And what surprises me more is that it’s the energy industry being allowed to do this. Yes, the same industry that has a lowly track record for mis-selling and the same industry that has record lows when it comes to our trust in them.

The government’s sending a message to industry to make sure they don’t exploit this opportunity to be irresponsible when selling door-to-door, with the industry also putting together a code of conduct.

But, here at Which?, we still think it’s not right to sell products when energy companies come round to install 50 million smart meters. Full stop.

No selling, just installing

We’re challenging energy suppliers to sign up to our ‘no selling, just installing’ smart meter challenge. Companies who accept the challenge will not sell during the installation and their smart meter installers will not be on sales-related commission or have to make any sales leads.

The installer will fit the meter, explain how it works, leave written material – and yes, some of this may include marketing material – and then go. Seven companies have made the promise already – well done to Co-operative Energy, Ecotricity, First Utility, Good Energy, Ovo and The Utility Warehouse.

But come on other suppliers. Take up the Which? smart meter challenge and show that you’re committed to making the smart meter roll-out hassle-free, rather than just extra-profitable.

So, thanks for my new smart meter, energy company. Yes, please install it. Yes, please explain how it works. Yes, please leave written information. But don’t try and sell to me in my home.


@Jenny Driscoll – when will you stop spouting the drivel you are spouting and listen to the population who are against these intrusions into our home.

Are you real or a figment of the Chairman of Which’s imagination on their way to get a knighthood. “Lets not rock the boat I want a job in the morning” I hear you say, well I want to be able to afford to LIVE.

We are all Which contributors to the coffers and pay your wages so lets have some support and none of this supplication, you have NOT answered any of my points directly and I challenge you to do so.


Hello Daver22, thanks for your comment, but please do not make your comments personal or abusive. Check out our Commenting Guidelines if you’re unsure. We think smart meters can help you bring your bills down and we’ll explore the benefits of smart meters in a future Conversation. However, you’re comments certainly aren’t falling on deaf ears – we’re very interested to hear what you all think about smart meters and we’re taking a note of your comments. Thanks.

Damn Young says:
23 July 2011

I’m with Daver22 here, in a equal opportunities multicultural ethnically diverse non abusive kind of way, and in no way would I make any homophobic remark…..
But,I too feel Which is toeing the PR line.
Customers are not going to save money. If customers do use less power, the suppliers will jack up their prices to compensate. This is not fiction, it has already happened to my mum. She recieved a water company letter saying that because our metered customers are using less water than before, we are not recieving the revenue that we used to, and therefore have no option but to raise prices for our metered customers. I cannot understand how anyone can be so gullable as to believe they will save money.

Phil says:
23 July 2011

Hang on, how did we go from “Is my smart meter spying on me”:-


To “smart meters are a great idea’?

There are still concerns other than privacy and “stealth sales” that need to be addressed, one, that’s worrying Ofgem, being remote isolation, the ability of the supplier to switch of your supply via the meter without visiting your property. Might it lead to the vulnerable being plunged into the cold and dark at the whim of a utility company? It appears that currently the legislation hasn’t kept up with the technology, we need safeguards regarding remote connection and switching not to mention privacy and it’s still by no means certain how these meters will communicate and how secure that communication will be from hackers. It’s also by no means certain that consumers will see any savings or that any savings made by the utility companies will be passed on to consumers.

Which? should be addressing these matters not providing an unqualified approval.


Yeah, I’m afraid I can see what Patrick is saying (unlike in a similar remark he’s made on the postal service conversation which I’m afraid perplexes me) but I do absolutely and totally agree with Daver22, Phil and others who have made remarks in the same sentiment.

I was always suspicious of Which? for donkey’s years, believing them to be in the pockets of manufacturers & Government. It’s only in the last 5 years or so that I have had faith in Which? but Jenny’s insistence that SmartMeters are ‘good” (I know I’m paraphrasing her here) in the face of all the opposition being posted does worry me. I thought Which? was about looking after consumers? I’m really sorry Jenny & Patrick, but this sort of response is what always made me distrust Which? in the past.

It would be really great of you could offer some reassurance.


@Patrick Steen: I must have touched a raw nerve, perhaps you could advise us all how far in the future the conversation re ‘the benefits of smart meters’ will take place.

Hopefully before they are a fate acompli!

Thanks as well to those who supported me with regard to the questionable conduct of Which toeing a pc line. I look forward to the conversation in not to distant a future.


No raw nerve Dave, we just have commenting guidelines that make everyone comfortable here on Convo 🙂 We’re happy for you to disagree with us and criticise us. Don’t worry about that at all, but just try not to make it personal. It should be up next week… I’ll let you know!


@Patrick: don’t mean to make it personal, look forward to next week.



Elljay says:
25 July 2011