A total of 43% of electricians and gas engineers have been explicitly asked by clients to tamper with their electricity or gas meters to make them run more slowly, new research from Direct Line business insurance has revealed.
Many electricians and gas engineers carrying out regular jobs for clients have noticed signs of tampering. A total of 30% of respondents have spotted evidence of tampering attempts and 9% either know, or work with someone, that has also seen signs of meter tampering in a client’s home.
The increasing cost of energy over the last 18 months is likely to be driving meter tampering requests, it said. Nearly all tradespeople, 92%, believe that increased costs have led to more people looking to make their meters run slowly to save money on energy.
Tampering with electricity and gas meters is not only dangerous, but it is also illegal, a statement noted. Cheating a meter to avoid paying bills is classified as ‘electricity theft’ and can lead to serious consequences including prison sentences and fines.
The research highlighted the majority of electricians and gas engineers understand the consequences of meter tampering and are alert to the need to report evidence of it.
There is clear evidence of the integrity that exists across the industry, Direct Line found, with 84% saying they have a good understanding of the repercussions of cheating a meter and 83% “likely to report it if they are confident that a gas or electricity meter has deliberately been tampered with”.
Alison Traboulsi, product manager at Direct Line business insurance, said: “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, added: “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.”