Frequently Asked Questions

How much energy is stolen? 

This is very difficult to quantify as it is impossible to reconcile sales and purchases of energy accurately without reading everyone’s meter at the same time, which is impossible. What we do know is that tens of thousands of theft situations are detected annually and from that we estimate the financial burden on the public to be well in excess of £100M per year (industry estimates from 2011/12 indicate between £100-400M per year).

Is meter tampering dangerous? 

Yes, interfering with power supplies is dangerous and can invalidate household insurance policies. Fires have been caused by people tampering with electricity and gas meters. Tampering may also leave exposed electrical parts, which could electrocute others in the house, e.g. children.

Why do people steal energy? 

Offenders fall in to many categories and whilst it is fair to say that some people who steal have little money and are desperate, many can well afford to pay their bills. They steal because they think that they can get away with it. Meter interference by those involved in the cultivation of illegal drugs is a major problem.

What should I do if I am having trouble paying my bills? 

If Consumers are experiencing difficulty paying their bills, the UKRPA encourages them to contact their Energy Supplier to discuss their situation. There are measures that Energy Suppliers can take to assist households who are struggling with the cost of their energy bills. See also Getting help if you can’t afford your energy bills – Ofgem.

Help and advice is also available from consumer advocates and charities such as Energy Saving Trust and Citizens Advice.

What offences are committed? 

People who have stolen energy can be prosecuted under one, or more, of the following,

England and Wales

Theft Act 1968: Section 1 (for gas)

Theft Act 1968: Section 13 (for abstraction of electricity)

Theft Act 1968: Section 17 (false accounting – mainly applies to businesses)

Theft Act 1978: Section 1 (dishonestly obtain services by deception) and Section 2 (evasion of liability by deception)

Criminal Damage Act 1971: Section 1 (causing criminal damage)

Criminal Law Act 1977: Section 1 (conspiracy)

Accessories and Abettors Act 1861: Section 8 (aiding and abetting)

Fraud Act 2006: Section 11 (obtaining services dishonestly)

England, Scotland and Wales

The Utilities Act 2000 Chapter 27 Schedule 4 (supplies of electricity stolen illegally and damage to electrical plant)

The Gas Act 1986 Schedule 2B (supplies of gas stolen illegally and interference with metering equipment)

Northern Ireland

Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969: Section 1 (for gas)

Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969: Section 13 (for abstraction of electricity)

Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969: Section 17 (false accounting – mainly applies to businesses)

Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969: Section 20 (handling of stolen goods)

Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967: Section 4 (assisting offenders)

Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967: Section 5 (concealing offences)

Criminal Damage (Northern Ireland) Order 1977: Section 3 (Destroying or Damaging property)

The Criminal Attempts and Conspiracy (Northern Ireland) Order 1983: Section 9 (conspiracy)

Fraud Act 2006: Section 11 (obtaining services dishonestly)

The Energy Act (Northern Ireland) 2011: Section 10 (1) (for damage to gas plant)

Who decides whether to prosecute? 

This is a matter for the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (England & Wales)/Public Prosecution Service (Northern Ireland)/Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Scotland), depending on the strength of evidence available and whether they consider a prosecution to be in the public interest. The energy supplier will generally first decide if the matter should be reported to the police.

What happens about paying for the 'stolen' energy 

The customer has to pay for the value of energy calculated to have been consumed but not metered during the period of interference as well as the costs of investigating the matter and the replacement of any damaged equipment.

What is the maximum sentence? 

A person convicted under Section 13 of the Theft Act can be sentenced to a maximum of five years imprisonment or a fine of £2,000

What powers do the energy companies have? 

England, Scotland and Wales

The Electricity Act 1989 provides for the following,

Schedule 6, paragraph 4-11 (see Utilities Act 2000 Chapter 27 Schedule 4 below)

Schedule 7, paragraph 10 (meters to be kept in proper order)

Schedule 7, paragraph 11 (interference with meters)

Schedule 7, paragraph 12 (prepayment meters)

The Utilities Act 2000 Chapter 27 Schedule 4 (substituted to take the place of the Electricity Act 1989 Schedule 6) provides:

paragraph 4 (supplies of electricity illegally taken)

paragraph 5 (restoration of connection without consent)

paragraph 6 (damage to electrical plant)

paragraphs 7, 8 and 10 (rights of entry)

The Gas Act 1986 Schedule 2B:

paragraph 9 (supplies of gas illegally taken)

paragraph 10 (interference with meters)

paragraph 11 (restoring a supply without permission)

Northern Ireland

The Electricity (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 provides for the following:

Schedule 6, paragraph 1 (recovery of electricity charges)

Schedule 6, paragraph 3 (restoration of supply without consent)

Schedule 6, paragraph 4 (damage to electrical plant)

Schedule 6, paragraphs 5, 6, 8 and 10 (rights of entry)

Schedule 7, paragraph 11 (meters to be kept in proper order)

Schedule 7, paragraph 12 (interference with meters)

Schedule 7, paragraph 13 (prepayment meters)

The Energy Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 provides the following:

Section 10 (2) and (3) (intentional (altering meter) or reckless damage to gas plant)

Section 14 (powers of entry)

The Gas Order (Northern Ireland) 1996: Schedule 5 (power of entry)

NOTE: Natural Gas is defined as property and therefore any theft of natural gas in Northern Ireland may be dealt with in accordance with The Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969: Sections 1-7.

Under what circumstances will a supply be left de-energised ('disconnected') following discovery of meter interference? 

The energy supplier is entitled to leave any supply de-energised where interference has taken place until the matter complained of has been remedied. This is taken to mean until the costs associated with the offence have been paid in full. Leaving a supply de-energised is not dependent on first obtaining a successful prosecution. De-energisation will normally take place in cases of repeat interference, commercial customers or where it is unsafe to leave the supply connected.

How do I report someone who I think may be tampering with his or her meter? 

Either complete the form on this web site, E-mail us or phone 020 7090 1070.

What will happen if I report someone? Will I have to go to court? What if my suspicions are wrong? 

You do not have to disclose your identity unless you wish to. We will follow up all reports in an objective manner. If in doubt, report it.

What should I do if I think that a neighbour is 'tapping' in to my supply? 

If you believe the interference to be taking place at the meter position, then you should contact us as above. If the interference is taking place after the meter, e.g. connected to your internal wiring, then this is a matter between you and whoever you believe has connected their supply to yours. You should report the matter to the police and, if necessary, take legal advice.

What is being done to stop people stealing energy? 

In addition to the work of the UKRPA, energy suppliers have formed a united front to tackle the problem. They ensure that all of their agents visiting customers’ premises are trained to identify methods of meter interference and regularly trawl their customer information systems to identify possible theft.

What should I do if I think that I have been wrongly accused of meter tampering? 

Both criminal and civil law apply to meter interference. Depending on the decision of the energy supplier, police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the criminal aspects will be dealt with at a Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court or official caution at a police station. You have the right to trial by jury.

Regardless of whether proceedings are brought in the criminal court, the registered customer is normally responsible for ensuring that the metering equipment is not interfered with by themselves or anyone else and in the event of any interference are liable for the costs and losses. It is possible therefore that you may be required to pay charges even if another member of the household, or a third party, has interfered with the meter during your period of responsibility.

What should I do if I have a complaint? 

You should in the first instance contact the Customer Services Department at your energy supplier. if you remain dissatisfied then you can refer the matter to Citizens Advice.