An estimated 440 million GBP of gas and electricity is stolen from energy networks each year. The rise in energy theft is a continuing problem in the UK. Tempted by the prospect of cheaper energy bills, users are increasing tampering with meters and artificially reducing their recorded usage, an act which is both illegal and highly dangerous.
The rise of energy theft is increasing by the thousands yearly, with extra effort being used to rig meters and divert energy from the grid. This isn’t just a matter of saving a few extra pounds, but a potentially life-threatening risk of the building’s occupants due to increased risk of electrical fire, gas leaks and possible explosions.
How and why people tamper with the meters
Meter tampering in its simplest form is when the meter no longer records actual consumption. This method consists of bypassing the meter, so energy can be used without it being correctly logged. It is astonishing what an individual will do to save a few pounds, which is deeply concerning, particularly when you consider the fatal consequences.
However, as energy prices continue to rise, so does the number of suspected cases of energy theft. With over 150,000 energy theft cases being invested each year, around 1,500 people are charged with energy theft offences.
The safety implications for energy theft are vast, below is a list of a few of the safety implications and financial and criminal implications for energy theft.
• The exposed wiring on a tampered electricity meter can cause severe electric shocks and burns. By bypassing the meter, any electrical switches or appliances become ‘live’ which can increase the risk of shock and fire in other areas of the premises.
• Electrical fires are an increased risk of meter tampering. Exposed wires and poor connections can become very hot and easily spark and start fires. In doing so, electrical meter tampering can compromise the entire safety of the building, putting all occupants lives at risk.
• Tampering with gas meters increases the risk of potentially fatal gas leaks, causing headaches and possible loss of consciousness.
• As gas is highly flammable, an explosion can happen when as little as 5% of gas mixes with the air. Something as small as flicking on a light switch can ignite gas, potentially causing a catastrophic explosion.
Financial and criminal implications
• Being charged with energy theft can leave you with a large fine and a criminal record and in some instances, you may even face up to 5 years imprisonment.
• Your energy supplier may cut you off supply if they suspect you have been stealing energy until a thorough investigation has been carried out.
• Your insurance may not pay out if they have discovered your meter has been tampered with and your property has been damaged in the event of fire etc.
• For every case of energy theft, it is estimated that the rest of the population has an added £20 to their bill.
How to identify and report energy theft
Below are a few tips to help you identify energy theft and how you can report it before there is a potentially dangerous situation.
• Smashed, broken or missing meter casing that looks like it has deliberately been tampered with to gain access to the cables inside.
• Exposed wires and cables which also may be sticking out of the meter casing or connected with connector clips.
• Burn marks on the meter casing or melted plastic components
• Electricity available, even when the meter says it has run out of credit (prepay)
• A burning smell, smoke or sparks near the meter box
• Any dials or digits on the meter may not be changings, even with electricity being in use.
• None of the dials being visible due to the meter being turned around for the gas pipes to be inserted into different inlets.
• A gas smell around or in the meter
• The original tubing may be replaced with rubber tubing to bypass the system.
• Gas available, even when the meter says it has run out of credit (prepay)
• The dials on the meter may not turn even when the gas is in use.
How to report energy theft
If you suspect energy theft in your premises or in a neighbouring property, you must report it. You can do so anonymously by calling our customer service team on 0330 0414 902