I have cancer and felt bullied by British Gas to get a smart meter unless I PAID them – what are your rights? | The Sun

PENSIONER Susan Brown who's living with cancer and considered vulnerable was left horrified when British Gas tried to charge her for a replacement electricity meter.

The 77-year-old from Hackney said she felt "bullied" into installing a smart prepayment meter after her legacy meter broke.

But Susan, who struggles with her health and vision asked to have her legacy meter replaced like-for-like which only requires a key to top-up.

To her shock, British Gas said they wouldn't do that unless she agreed to pay £139.

This amount would be repaid in the form of a debt applied directly to her new meter.

This was despite Susan being on the priority service register, which is meant to protect vulnerable customers.

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It all started on Saturday, August 26 after a power cut that affected over 3,000 households across East London.

As a result of this, Susan's legacy prepayment electricity meter went blank – something that commonly occurs with these devices after a power outage.

Luckily for the 77-year-old, she'd had over £200 worth of credit on this meter before it went blank – meaning she had enough cash on there to stop her from being disconnected.

But Susan who lives with her son-in-law Paul Smith, 57, told The Sun: "I'm furious with British Gas – I've been a loyal customer for decades and I am on the priority service register."

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"It felt like they were coercing me into having a smart meter by saying that they'd place a debt on a brand new traditional prepayment electricity meter."

"I was insistent on keeping a key top-up meter as my eyesight is poor and switching to a smart meter which is topped up via an app is far too complicated for me."

To make matters worse, a British Gas engineer failed to turn up and resolve the issue even though they promised to come out on Thursday, August 31 – leaving Susan "severely deflated and anxious".

Susan who already suffers from her mental health on top of battling cancer over the last several years was confused as to why the company was so insistent on charging for a like-for-like replacement.

Especially when a power cut in late September 2022 resulted in the same outcome – a busted meter.

However at that time, British Gas replaced it like-for-like without charge.

Sun Money reached out to British Gas to ask why it was now requesting payment for a new legacy meter – especially considering Susan was on the priority services register.

British Gas said that the like-for-like replacement offer in September was free as goodwill.

However, the supplier agreed to waive these fees again following calls from Sun Money.

It also agreed to pay £30 in compensation for not sending an engineer out to Susan's home when planned.

A British Gas spokesperson said: "We've spoken with Mrs Brown and have arranged an appointment to exchange her prepayment electricity meter on 26 September as requested.

"We're very sorry for the appointment we missed and have provided her a goodwill payment in light of this."

Do I have to have a smart meter fitted?

There are two types of prepayment meters.

Traditional or "legacy" prepayment meters need to be topped up using a card or key fob which you can add cash to at local PayPoint kiosks.

Meanwhile, smart prepayment meters can be topped up at home via an app or online.

Unless there is a good reason not to, all energy suppliers are encouraged to install a smart meter if they are:

  • Replacing a meter
  • Installing a meter for the first time, such as in a new property 

However, consumers still have a right to choose not to accept an offer to have a smart meter fitted.

You can also request to have one at a later date without being charged.

But if you do choose not to have a smart meter it might mean you have a limited choice of energy tariffs.

Energy suppliers are also within their right to charge for a legacy meter replacement and some might not even be able to do it due to dwindling stock.

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However, if you're vulnerable or confident that you have a good enough reason not to have a smart meter installed, some suppliers may waive the charge.

The deadline for smart meters to be rolled out has been pushed back to 2025 – but it still means that all households will have to accept one eventually.

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