Dodgy energy meters: What should you do?

Annette Booysen

Energy theft is all around you and affects everyone. Whether it’s tampering with an electricity meter or a gas supply, it’s a dangerous crime that can have deadly consequences. But how frequent is it, and how can you spot the signs? Annette Booysen, account manager at Crimestoppers, explains more.

A study commissioned by Echo Managed Services and the Grosvenor Services Group estimates that 92% of the public think that energy theft is wrong, while 14% confessed to having witnessed some form of tampering. More than half of those who were surveyed agreed that they would report their suspicions without hesitation.

The cost to the individual consumer, however, is less well known. Approximately 80% of the public weren’t aware that the consequences of people committing energy theft include adding around £20 to consumers’ bills each year. There are severe safety risks involved too.


What does it actually look like? Most commonly, energy theft takes place in the form of meter tampering. When a meter is bypassed, the electricity or gas supply avoids passing through the meter so that the readings will appear lower than the actual usage. It happens more often than you might think.

Tampered meters pose a high safety risk. Messing with electricity meters can increase the risk of shocks, sparks and fires, while a tampered gas meter can cause fatal gas leaks or, in the most extreme cases, an explosion. As gas is highly flammable, it could take something as simple as the flick of a light switch to cause a deadly explosion.

There are many more costly implications that go beyond safety. Thieves who are caught tampering can be faced with hefty fines, forced to pay back the stolen amount and can even face a prison sentence.

It’s not just regular consumers either – businesses can also be guilty of trying to cut corners and avoid paying their energy bills. However, they’re putting the safety of their customers and staff at risk in the process and can pay the price for it.

If you suspect that your energy supply is at risk or have suspicions about anything you’ve seen but don’t know what to look for, keep an eye out for some of the following signs of tampering.


  • Damaged casing
  • Extra wires
  • Melted meter
  • Supply available with no credit
  • Dial not moving
  • Burning smell


  • Back to front meter
  • Smell of gas
  • Rubber piping
  • Dial has disappeared
  • Supply available with no credit
  • Dial not moving

Statistics suggest that energy theft is actually a growing problem in the UK, with 150,000 suspected cases investigated every single year. You can report energy theft or suspected energy theft by calling 0800 023 2777

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