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What does the IET think of rising levels of electricity theft?

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.

  • Indigence has never been an excuse for theft (or abstraction).

    In any event, I doubt that many elderly or infirm householders on a tight budget would even consider taking the risk.

  • 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.

  • It will continue to rise whist ever the market is as distorted as it presently is.Those who run and structure the present market are as culpable as those at the bottom of the chain who cut the seals and bypass the meter.

  • IN my part of the world this was a big problem, and the utility went for prepaid meters mounted on the Utility pole, which made it difficult for consumers to carry out the conventional bypass of the meters, the prepaid meters have an indoor unit that the consumer uses to purchase credit in advance and offers the benefit its a pay as you go model,

  • There's a good article about smart meters on the Don't Pay website

    Karl Marx writes much about the conflict between capital vs labour. I'm a critic of his theories believing that many are out of date, or just wrong to start with, but when digital technology is thrown into the mix then there is perhaps some truth to what he says.

    The fact that a utility company can switch thousands of smart meters into prepayment mode at the click of a mouse, and is even able to detect if a smart meter has been bypassed or physically removed is a sure indication of the way digital technology benefits the capitalist and corporatist class more so than the common folk.

    I can believe that in less than 10 years time smart meters will become compulsory and utility companies will crack down hard on anybody removing or bypassing them. It's not just the capitalist and corporatist class that will strongly uphold smart meters, but the environmental lobby as well under the banner of climate change and to pay for the installation and upkeep of renewable energy generation hardware.

    I also think that smart meters in the future will have some mechanism to tax electricity used to charge electric cars with as the demise of petrol and diesel will create a huge black hole for the Treasury.

  • The prepayment electric and gas meters were physically removed from a local house a few weeks ago by a smartly dressed man, who was defintely not from a utility company. They were replaced by standard meters.

    The whereabouts of the prepayment meters is unknown but I'm inclined to say that the utility company will never see them again.

  • The prepayment electric and gas meters were physically removed from a local house a few weeks ago by a smartly dressed man, who was defintely not from a utility company. They were replaced by standard meters.

    By 'standard meters' do you mean the type that supply companies (or their agents) are fitting as standard now? - i.e. smart meters? If so these have pre-payment ability built-in by design which needs only to be enabled remotely by the supplier. So it might be what you observe is nothing more than a usual upgrade to a smart meter. The bloke in the van not bearing the same brand as the supplier isn't at all unusual - very many suppliers sub-contract the metering to agent companies - I've had folks from MeterPlus and now an outfit called LowriBeck - which bear no resemblance whatsoever to my actual supplier.

       - Andy.

  • I mean ordinary meters of a type commonly used by utility companies. Not smart meters. No prepay facility.

    They can easily be obtained on the open market.

    It looks like an unofficial swap out to me.

  • It looks like unlawful abstraction to me.

    I assume that once a pre-payment (only) meter has been installed, the supplier no longer takes meter readings. Therefore they might continue to supply in ignorance of the situation.

    Surely it cannot be that simple!