EDF customers to be made to pay for smart meters found to be not so smart
Smart meters installed in the homes and businesses of EDF Energy customers have failed to send meter data back to the company since November last year. In consequence, customers could be hit with surprise winter bills.
The problem stems from a faulty firmware update released last on 5 November that EDF has admitted will have affected “a lot” of its smart meter customers.
The meter is supposed to sync with the paired electricity meter using the Zigbee protocol. This is meant to upload meter readings at regular intervals over the mobile network using a SIM card. However, this has been failing to pass the information on.
As a result, EDF is being told by its customers’ smart meters that no gas being used.
It is, Computing has been told, a known problem, but one with no resolution in sight.
However, affected customers have not been proactively informed about the issue. When questioned this week why EDF smart meters, which are supposed to be designed to take the guesswork out of billing, had left customers with massive debits over the winter, EDS deflected responsibility for its faulty equipment on to customers.
EDF told Computing that it is the responsibility of the customer to check if payment amounts are correct.
Furthermore, we were also told that customers should be using a ‘belt-and-braces approach’, and should continue to take manual meter readings – all of which completely defeats the point of smart meters for the customer.
EDF have said that they did warn customers at the time that there might be temporary errors on their display but that it would not affect their bills. However, the problem has now been running for four months.
Although the company claimed that 85,000 customers were successfully updated and less than one per cent failed, it hasn’t divulged the exact number of potentially affected customers.
All homes in the UK are due to have smart meters installed by 2020 under government legislation, but the scheme has been beset by a plethora of problems, including incompatibility between meters installed by different suppliers, leading to forecasts that the target will be missed by miles.
Unless they meet the SMETS1 standard (which current EDF meters do not by default) by changing provider, the meter may fail to function as “smart” and customers will end up taking their own meter readings anyway – just as EDF customers are being advised to do now.
In a statement, EDF claimed: “We are aware that in some rare cases the meters no longer communicate with our systems. We are in the process of identifying whether there are additional actions we can take to fix this issue, and will ensure that all efforts will be taken to ensure the smart meters work as they should. This may include replacing the smart meter if necessary.”
The company added that when a firmware drop fails, it will be re-sent until it works.
In March 2016, GCHQ was forced to intervene over the poor security in smart meters leading to the new standard. IoT devices have been beset by problems of security, and although smart meters are isolated from the rest of the home, this provides even less chance of the end user detecting a fault.
The current advice we can offer is that if you’re offered a smart meter, check with your provider that the models they are currently installing are SMETS1 compliant. If not, decline until they are. If you have a smart meter, check regularly online that your bill is being updated (you can opt for readings as often as twice-hourly with some companies) or if you’ve been given an energy meter, check that.
EDF have told us that they will be rolling out SMETS1 compliant meters later in the year, but existing smart customers won’t have their meters replaced as they intend to add SMETS1 compliance via the borked firmware update (slightly ironically).
And, though it pains us to say this, we have to echo what EDF advised us. If you have a smart meter, with any supplier, don’t assume it’s working. For peace of mind, take manual readings twice a year and submit them, just as you did before.
Some of the information in this article was given to us by EDF’s customer service team who were dealing with us as customers, rather than journalists.
We have asked EDF for a statement in our official capacity, particularly asking why it had failed to inform customers after the firmware drop borked their meters, especially over winter when the largest bills will be ratcheted up.
Their initial response from a spokesperson was: “Our aim is to install a smart meter for every single customer that wants one, helping them to save energy and money.
“Unfortunately, in a small number of cases, smart meters can experience problems that result in limited functionality. Where we have identified smart meters working with limited functionality, we are working to resolve these for customers as quickly as possible.”
EDF also pointed out that some meters have been affected by a secondary problem, as well as the upgrade failure, although the symptoms and outcomes are the same.
Smart meters also don’t have a great track record for reliability and, unofficially, customer services has admitted that re-attempting a firmware drop is a manual, not automatic, process that could take up to two weeks.
What’s more, the success rate of resends has, thus far, not been good either.
Posted under Fair Use Rules.