Addressing consumers concerns

Ombudsman Services | Last updated Jun 22, 2021

As the industry press forward with the installation of smart meters, consumer concerns need to be addressed with understanding. This case study explores our involvement in a case raised by a consumer around the installation of smart meters and loss of ability to read his meters independently.

Complaint details

Upon receiving agreement from the consumer, an engineer attended and installed smart meters for gas and electricity. Prior to the meter installations, the consumer would always read his meters and provide meter readings or verify the readings on the bills. The gas meter is situated outside of the property and contained within a semi-concealed meter box. Due to the location of the meter screen on the new gas meter the consumer was unable to check the reading on the meter, which he raised as an issue.

The supplier considered the issue that the consumer had raised but informed him that as he now had smart meters, he did not need to read his meter. The provider was happy that as they were receiving actual meter readings from both meters the billing was accurate and therefore didn’t feel that any award was required. The consumer remained unhappy and referred his complaint to Ombudsman Services.

Our findings

During the investigation, it became clear that while the supplier was correct to explain some of the benefits of smart metering, they failed to address the consumers actual issue. The consumer was not questioning the accuracy of the billing, but was unhappy that he had lost the ability to read his own meter. He was not informed of this prior to the installation or given the option not to proceed based on this information.

Outcome

Ombudsman Services explained to the consumer that the supplier was correct in their explanation of the benefits of smart metering, and went on to explain what the consumer could do if there were ever any concerns with the billing or the meter readings.

Ombudsman Services concluded that the supplier had failed to address the actual issue that the consumer had raised, which had led to further frustration. During a call with Ombudsman Services, the consumer confirmed that had the supplier acknowledged his actual issue and expressed a level of empathy towards his situation, he would not have felt the need to bring the matter to Ombudsman Services. This showed that understanding the consumer’s actual issue was key to a resolution.

In relation to the shortfall in customer service for failing to address the issue, Ombudsman Services required the supplier to send a letter of apology and to make a small goodwill payment for the inconvenience that the matter had caused.’