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DAN HYDE: End the smart meter madness - firms need guidelines on how to advertise the devices to customers

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 10/04/2018 Daniel Miller

© GettyEditor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Scratch the surface and you'll find that the bullying scandal at the heart of Money Mail's smart meter campaign today can be traced back to a catastrophic series of events in 2009.

The EU had just ruled that, by 2020, eight in ten European households should be using these digital devices to see how much energy they were using.

Armed with these powerful tools, we were told, homeowners would turn off TVs and lights to save money and fossil fuel. Meanwhile, suppliers would cut meter reading costs and keep prices low.

Unrealistic target: In 2009 the EU ruled that, by 2020, eight in ten European households should be using these smart meters to see how much energy they were using© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Unrealistic target: In 2009 the EU ruled that, by 2020, eight in ten European households should be using these smart meters to see how much energy they were using You can imagine Gordon Brown's government licking their lips in excitement.

Brush aside the privacy, health and safety concerns of ordinary citizens and billions of pounds in savings were up for grabs.

But bungling Labour ministers at the time — led by energy secretary Ed Miliband — then made two serious mistakes.

First, they decided all households in the UK should have a smart meter by 2020, not the 80 per cent suggested by Brussels. Second, they decided that the suppliers should roll out the technology, rather than a central body.

Nine years on, we're left in a mess.

The costs of installing smart meters are rising so fast, energy insiders say the promised savings could be wiped out before 2020.

On top of that, each supplier has installed its own smart meter technology, meaning customers lose the key functions if they switch tariffs.

Now, the threat of gigantic fines for missing the unreasonable 2020 deadline is causing firms to harass customers who, quite correctly given their concerns, have been given the right to say 'no'. 

You won't find a single energy giant brave enough to poke its head above the parapet and condemn the rollout, as they're petrified of being shot down by ministers.

But Big Six sources tell me that the Government has been warned if the rush leads fitters to bodge the installations, there is a risk of gas explosions. It's a terrifying thought.

These problems could be solved by our Stop the Smart Meter Bullying campaign's twin aims: relax the 2020 deadline, and set clear instructions on how firms should advertise smart meters to customers.

Claire Perry, the energy minister, and Ofgem, the energy watchdog, must act immediately.

Breakdown ruse

How astonishing for the AA to admit that, by default, the price of its breakdown cover soars by as much as 124 per cent after a year.

That's a far more extreme hike than you'll get if you roll over your car or home insurance and shows blatant disregard for customers.

I can't help thinking that its rivals must be up to the same tricks. Let me know if you've been hit by the breakdown cover ruse.

Thrifty £50,000

Last week, I wrote that many young families tell me a £50,000 joint household income doesn't make them feel rich.

It's the equivalent of both parents earning less than the average wage while feeding four or five mouths, and families say it leaves little room for luxuries.

The thought touched a nerve with some readers who remember the harshness of wartime rationing. Rodney Norman emailed me to say if families can't manage on £50,000, 'they need to look hard at their lifestyle and make some changes'.

What do you think? Is £50,000 enough for a family of four to feel wealthy?

Wake up, Ageas

Andy Watson, the boss of insurer Ageas, needs to take a long, hard look at himself. His dismissal of the Weldin family, whom Ageas has denied a £460,000 payout to rebuild their fire-ravaged home, is an outrage.

Every insurance expert Money Mail has spoken to since the story ran two weeks ago says Ageas is acting unfairly in denying the family a single penny because they said their home had five bedrooms, while Ageas said the large loft space meant they had seven.

Steve Groves, former chief executive of insurer Partnership, says the family should at least get five-sevenths of the £460,000 payout, or around £328,500. 

He describes it as a 'very unfair decision' and, based on the Money Mail feature, says he 'wouldn't allow a company I ran to treat customers like this'.

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