It's now common knowledge that electricity thefts have risen rapidly over the past year or so in the wake of skyrocketing utility bills.
The maximum penalty for electricity theft is 5 years in prison, but considering the Don't Pay campaign has over 250,000 signatures, then if every person who signed up decided to steal electricity then there simply isn't the prison capacity in Britain for even half of them simultaneously.
Campaigns like Stay Energy Safe (a division of Crime Stoppers) and stupid scaremongering articles in the local rag are totally ineffective. Any PR by the police will only increase public grievance towards utility companies.
Utility companies threatening bill defaulters with prepayment meters is counterproductive. Do they even have enough prepayment meters and technicians to install them if over 250,000 refuse to pay their bills simultaneously? Take into account that forced entry into a property to change the electric meter is a dangerous game and meter technicians could easily become targets for violence. If prepayment meters are installed then it's not too difficult for customers to remove them and change them back to standard meters - you can buy electric meters on eBay for £20.
What does the IET think about this? Are the majority of people who choose to fiddle or bypass meters desperate or are they just plain dishonest?
SMETS-2 smart meters (and possibly upgraded SMETS-1 ones too, I'm not sure) are already capable of being switched remotely to prepayment mode. No forcing entry required. Just a quick over-the-air update to the settings on the meter.
And smart meters also send a message home if the power goes off unexpectedly.
Abstraction is on the increase, due to a mixture of desperation and simple dishonesty.
Whilst the elderly and otherwise vulnerable are unlikely to PERSONALLY tamper with metering, there are plenty of people who will do it for them. A worrying number of consumers do not even understand the difference between legitimate energy saving, and abstraction.
Some of the techniques used are sophisticated and very hard to detect.
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