Do we need an energy theft amnesty?
Don't meddle with the meter.
Here’s an idea to ponder. According to Ofgem, tampered energy meters add £20 to every household bill each year. They also pose a life-threatening danger to personal and public safety. So the regulator is suggesting an energy theft amnesty. This would mean giving the public - including property professionals, landlords and tenants – the chance to own up (risk free) to breaking the law by stealing energy through a tampered meter. The meter would be made safe and no backdated charges applied.
Energy theft is a serious crime and it's one which frequently goes under the radar. It is often committed by rogue landlords or tenants and injures or kills at least one person every fortnight in the UK.
proposed amnesty, energy thieves would neither be prosecuted, fined
nor back-billed and would simply "get away with it." The
sentence is usually five years in prison.
Ofgem is so serious about this idea that it has done a survey to see what 1000 people round the country think. Over half would be in favour. So what are the pros and cons? Here’s what Ofgem has to say:
- Tampered meters are highly dangerous. They can cause fires, electric shocks and large gas explosions that can injure or even end lives. By making meters safe, an amnesty would help to make communities a safer place.
- In the UK we all pay an extra £20 per year on our energy bills to pay for energy theft. Correcting tampered meters could help reduce the amount that everyone has to pay to fund stolen energy.
- An amnesty means that people who have previously broken the law by tampering with their energy meter will get away with it and won’t have to pay back what they have stolen. This could devalue the crime and make more people think they can get away with it – or other offences – in future.
- If lots of people come forward, energy companies will need to visit thousands of homes to make their meter safe. This will be costly and does not guarantee these customers will not re-offend.
The research, which was carried out by UK-wide energy theft investigation companies, Echo Managed Services and Grosvenor Services Group doesn’t think the dangers of energy theft are well enough known. The energy sector needs to work harder to educate people on the potentially-fatal risks that meter tampering can present, they say.
Ofgem will be weighing up the pros and cons of a possible amnesty in the coming months – so it will be interesting to see what happens. In the meantime, anyone thinking of tampering with an energy meter in a property they manage, let out or rent from a landlord should think again. It’s against the law and it’s dangerous.
Image courtesy of Caroline Ford [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
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