Electricians and gas engineers in the UK are being asked by clients to tamper with their electricity and gas meters in a bid to make them run more slowly.
The new research from Direct Line business insurance shows that in the last 12 months, 43% of electricians and gas engineers have been asked by customers to tamper with their meters.
Over the same period, nearly a third (30%) of these tradespeople say they’ve seen evidence of tampering attempts in clients’ homes.
A fifth (19%) also say they either know, or work with someone else, who has seen signs of meter tampering.
Nearly all (92%) of the electricians and gas engineers surveyed believe that increased costs have led to more people looking to make their meters run slowly to save money on energy.
ECA's Senior Technical Manager Gary Parker spoke about this issue on LBC News radio, saying that these figures are worryingly high, and that tampering with meters can be incredibly dangerous:
Tampering with electricity and gas meters is not only dangerous, but also illegal.
Cheating a meter to avoid paying bills is classified as ‘electricity theft’ and can lead to serious consequences including prison sentences and fines.
Reassuringly, the research shows that most electricians and gas engineers understand the consequences of meter tampering and are alert to the need to report evidence of it.
Over four-in-five (84%) say they have a good understanding of the repercussions of cheating a meter, and 83% say they are likely to report evidence of meter tampering.
Alison Traboulsi, Product Manager at Direct Line business insurance says: “It is worrying to see that meter tampering and electricity theft attempts have become relatively widespread.
“While times are undoubtedly hard, people should remember this is dangerous and a criminal offence, which could lead to severe consequences. People should also not be asking energy contractors to perform illegal acts.
“Despite this, it is encouraging to see the majority of electricians and gas engineers have a good understanding of this and remain on the right side of the law by not facilitating meter tampering for clients.
“Meter Tampering also has serious insurance implications. If your property is damaged, destroyed or someone hurt as a result of deliberate meter tampering, you won’t be covered by your home insurance.
“This also applies to Landlords with tenants who have tampered with gas or electricity meters, although they may be covered if they’ve taken out additional cover to protect themselves against malicious damage caused by their tenants.”
David Powell, electrical installation safety engineer at Electrical Safety First comments: “Tampering with electricity meters is not only a criminal offence – it could cost you your life.
“Many people are struggling financially but it is never worth putting you or your family at risk. Tampering with meters exposes anyone in your household to electric shocks, burns, fire and even death. If you are struggling with your energy bills, speak directly to your energy provider.”
Last updated 07 June 23