The rise of meter tampering

Meter tampering is on the rise, with more and more instances being reported every year. In a recent survey, Direct Line learned that 30% of tradespeople have seen evidence of tampering in clients’ homes. But why are we seeing such a rise in the practice, and what are the consequences of meter tampering?


What is meter tampering?

Meter tampering is when a person deliberately interferes with their gas or electricity meter to prevent it from accurately recording the amount of energy used. It’s done as a way to cut energy bills and is illegal as it’s a form of theft.

There are many different ways that people try to interfere with their gas or electricity meters. Some tamper with the operation so it doesn’t properly register how much energy is being used, while others try to bypass the meter completely so it doesn’t record any usage at all.

It’s easier to tamper with old-style energy meters, but it’s also possible to interfere with modern smart meters.


Why are people tampering with their meters?

The continuing cost of living crisis has been cited as the main reason for the increase in meter tampering over recent months. Direct Line found that 43% of electricians and gas engineers have been asked by customers to tamper with their meters in the last year.

While energy costs are finally starting to decrease, Brits are still feeling the effects of higher prices on everything from rent to eating out. Energy bills are an essential cost, and even the most frugal use can still end up being unaffordable for many. While there is financial support available from the UK Government, not all households are eligible, and many are instead turning to illegal methods such as meter tampering to make ends meet.


What are the consequences of meter tampering?

Meter tampering is a serious crime, and anyone caught doing it could be fined up to £30,000. They may also receive a criminal record and be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Direct Line’s survey found that 83% of electricians and gas engineers would report signs of meter tampering if they noticed it, so the chances of getting caught out are high.

Aside from the legal risks, tampering with gas and electricity meters can be extremely dangerous, as it involves handling live wires. Even if they are able to adjust it without incident, a meter that has been improperly installed can put the occupants at risk. Interrupting the normal operation of the meter may involve disconnecting or damaging wires, which could lead to fire or electric shock months or even years down the line.

Instead of tampering with their energy meters, consumers are encouraged to seek financial support from the Government, who offer a variety of cost of living payments. However, many of these are only available to those who are already receiving certain benefits, and not all households will be eligible. Another option is for customers to speak directly with their energy supplier to discuss any discounts or payment plans that may be available to them.


Want to find out more about how much your different appliances are costing you each day? Take a look at our How much electricity does your home use and what does it cost to run? resource.

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