Smart meters: A guide to your rights

Mae’r dudalen yma ar gael yn Gymraeg.

Many gas and electricity suppliers have started offering to install smart meters for their customers. Your supplier will contact you to tell you when you can get one, but you can request one too.

This guide answers frequently asked questions on smart meters.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in homes across Great Britain to replace older energy meters, including prepayment meters. 

Ofgem, with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, are working with energy suppliers to ensure the rollout achieves the best possible outcomes for you. You can find out more about Ofgem’s work in the roll out at Transition to smart meters.

Why am I being offered a smart meter?

All energy suppliers must aim to install smart meters in every home in England, Wales and Scotland. They will contact you to tell you when you can get one or you can contact them and request one.

Your supplier is responsible for installing any smart metering equipment. This includes a smart electricity and gas meter, an in-home display that will tell you about your energy usage in pounds and pence, and a communications hub that will send and receive information over a secure network (for example, to your in-home display or to your supplier so they can bill you accurately).

See the Smart Energy GB website for further information on supplier installation plans and how to contact your supplier if you want to request one before they contact you.

Are smart meters mandatory?

Energy suppliers are offering smart metering to all their customers and are required to install a smart meter wherever a meter is replaced or where a meter is installed for the first time, for instance in new premises, unless there is a good reason not to.

Consumers can choose not to accept an offer to have smart meters installed or request an installation at a later date at no extra cost. However, please note that choosing not to have a smart meter installed may mean not having access to all the available tariffs on the market, some of which could be cheaper.

If your existing meter is need of replacement, for example for safety or accuracy reasons, your supplier should replace this meter with a smart meter unless there is a good reason not to. 

What are the benefits of a smart meter?

Smart meters will give you near real-time information on your energy use. Through an in-home display, you can easily track your costs usage, and understand where you might be able to make reductions that could save you money. 

Smart metering will end estimated billing, meaning you will only be billed for the energy you actually use, and helping you make better decisions about which energy supplier offers the best deal for you. Smart meters will give you access to a broader range of tariffs on the market, some of which could be cheaper.

Smart meters can work in prepayment or credit mode. If you’re a prepayment customer, there are particular benefits for you:

  • Your energy supplier may be able to offer you new and more flexible ways of topping up your meter that mean you don’t have to visit a shop.
  • You’ll be able to see your balance on your in-home display, so you won’t unknowingly run out of credit.
  • You can set your meter to automatically top up, so you won’t be left without power if you run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut.

At a national level, smart meters are central to Britain’s shift to a cleaner, more flexible energy system. We need to adapt to the new, greener ways we now generate energy – such as through wind or solar power – and to changing uses of energy – such as electric vehicle charging.   Smart metering paves the way towards a more energy efficient future.

For example, smart meters will record your energy use every 30 minutes. This means energy suppliers could offer you tariffs that reduce your charges if you use power when it is cheaper for them to buy it on the wholesale market and supply it to you, such as on a sunny or windy day.

How much will it cost to have a smart meter installed?

You will not be charged separately for a smart meter or for the in-home display.

Under current arrangements you pay for the cost of your meter and its maintenance through your energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.

I have a smart meter. Can I shop around and switch supplier?

If you have a smart meter, you can shop around and switch supplier as you can with a traditional meter. 

If you have a first generation smart meter, when you switch supplier your meter will continue to accurately record gas or electricity consumption as before. However, if the new supplier cannot operate your meter in smart mode, you may need to temporarily take manual meter readings, and energy suppliers must inform you of this risk.

The Data Communications Company (DCC) is responsible for the national infrastructure that enables communications between smart meters and all energy suppliers. First generation meters have started to be connected to the national infrastructure via a remote upgrade. This enables first generation meters to regain their smart functionality if it has been lost after switching and, over time, all suppliers will be able to operate them as smart meters.

Suppliers are currently installing second generation meters, which all suppliers will be able to operate.

I rent a property. Can I have a smart meter installed?

If you directly pay your energy supplier for the gas or electricity in your rented property, you can choose to have a smart meter installed. We’d recommend you tell your landlord before you get one. That’s because there may be rules in your tenancy agreement about how energy is supplied to the property, including the type of meter that can be installed. If your landlord pays the energy bill for the property, the decision to get a smart meter is up to them.

We’re encouraging landlords to help their tenants benefit from the national rollout of smart meters, and to tell you they are happy for you to install one. If your tenancy agreement says you need your landlord’s permission to alter metering at your property, your landlord or letting agency should not unreasonably prevent it.

For more information, see How to switch energy supplier if you're a tenant.

Am I eligible for a smart meter if I don’t have a strong mobile signal?

Yes.  Smart metering communications coverage will reach over 99% of households in Britain by the end of 2020. To achieve this level of coverage, a range of technologies will be used, not just mobile signals.

Communications coverage is one of a range of technical and commercial reasons why your supplier may not offer you a smart meter now. You may want to follow up with your supplier to understand when you will be eligible.

How will my data be used?

Your smart meter will store data about your energy use every 30 minutes. You have a choice about how this data is used, apart from where is it is needed to bill you and for other regulated purposes. 

Your energy supplier and the energy network companies that run the pipes and wires that deliver energy to your home, can access data to ensure accurate billing and carry out other essential tasks. 

Suppliers can access your daily data unless you object, but have to get your permission to access half-hourly data, or to use your data for marketing purposes. If you give permission, suppliers and third parties can use your data to offer you new products and services. For example, they may give you access to your energy consumption data online or through an app, give you advice on the best tariff for you, or offer a smart tariff that charges different amounts at different times.

You will be able to see your real-time and historical energy use data on your in-home display. You will also be able to share data with third parties such as switching sites if you choose to.

The Data Guide for Smart Meters (opens another website) was developed by Energy UK and Citizens Advice and outlines the key information customers need to know about their rights and choices when they get a smart meter installed.

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Publications and updates

  • Published: 30th Apr 2013
  • Factsheets
  • 1 Associated documents
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