What are the dangers associated with meter tampering?
Due to the potential of a gas explosion, gas leak, electrocution, fire, and in some cases death, energy theft puts everyone in danger. This includes the person carrying out the tamper, the public, the operatives that investigate the theft as well as creating a risk of damage to surrounding property and infrastructure.
How much energy is stolen per year?
The Retail Energy Code Company released a report in January 2023 that estimates that energy theft costs consumers up to £1.4 billion yearly.
Why do people steal energy and who pays for it?
People steal energy for a variety of reasons, some people are facing hardship and cannot afford their bills, some people just don’t want to pay and some people prey on other people’s vulnerabilities, offering a service to tamper with the meter for a fee.
It is also sometimes linked to other organised crime such as cannabis cultivation, where large volumes of electricity are required.
Energy theft is not a victimless crime. The cost of unidentified theft is borne by all. As energy theft increases, so will every honest bill payer’s costs.
What other crimes can energy theft be linked to?
The theft of utilities is often linked to serious organised crimes which use high volumes of energy such as cannabis cultivation. It is also commonly identified in locations where there is people trafficking, child exploitation, modern slavery, prostitution and other drug or illegal network activity. Whilst crypto currency e.g. bitcoin, mining is not a crime, it can often be associated with energy theft due to the large amount of electricity required to power its complex machinery.
Is energy theft illegal and will I be prosecuted?
Energy theft is illegal.
Once caught, a person can be prosecuted and will be liable to pay for the energy that was stolen as well as any costs associated with the investigation and rectification of the metering equipment or damage to the incoming energy supply pipes or cabling.
A person can be prosecuted under the Theft Act, Electricity Act, Gas Act or Fraud Act to name a few.
Will I need to pay back what I have stolen?
Yes, you will be liable to pay for the energy that was stolen. In addition you may have to pay the costs associated with the investigation and rectification of any damage to the metering equipment or incoming supply.
Who owns my meter?
If you are a domestic consumer, your meter is owned by your supplier.
If you are a business you should check your Supply contract for details of the meter provision.
Can I own my own meter?
Yes, however you must first consult with your Supplier to ensure that the correct and lawful process is followed.
Only certified metering companies can work on and remove a meter. The removal of the meter by a non-certified person is illegal and can lead to prosecution.
See the UKRPA Myth Buster for more information.
How do I report someone who I think may be tampering with their meter?
Someone has offered to bypass or replace my meter. Should I report them?
Yes, you can report these incidences through the UKRPA. Please provide a name, any contact details you have, and any “sales” material provided including flyers, online links or message/email screenshots.
I think my neighbour is tapping into my supply, what should I do?
If you believe interference is taking place at the metering point (theft from the Supplier) or from the incoming cables or pipework before the meter (theft directly from the grid) , contact the UKRPA or CrimeStoppers.
Where it is believed interference is within your internal wiring (after your meter), this is a matter between you and the alleged party. You should report this matter to the police and consider legal advice.
I am having trouble paying my bills, what should I do?
You should contact your Supplier in the first instance. There are measures Suppliers can take to assist households who are struggling with the cost of their bills.
I believe my bills are too high for my usage, what should I do?
On their own, high bills are not a reason to suspect energy theft. In the first instance, speak to your Supplier to understand your bill and to obtain energy saving advice.
There are many reasons why a bill might be higher than expected, for example:
- Estimated vs actual reads – submit a meter reading if you bill has been estimated
- Tariff and cost changes – your usage and tariff rates will be on your bill
- Faulty appliances or appliances in need of servicing – ensure you maintain appliances for safety and efficiency.
- Leaving appliances on or on standby – switch off items that are not in use
Thermostats set too high or heating on constantly rather than on a timer