The UK may face another challenging winter, as data from the Stay Energy Safe service reveals a 68% surge in reports of meter tampering and energy theft during the previous winter.
Stay Energy Safe is an independent service operated by the charity Crimestoppers. The service aims to keep people and communities safe from the disastrous effects of energy crime, by increasing awareness and encouraging people to report energy theft, 100% anonymously, if they suspect it is happening.
From August 2022 to August 2023 they received, on average, one thousand tip-offs a month, which were passed on for investigation.
Last year saw record levels of suspected energy theft being reported via Stay Energy Safe. As the cold weather hits in the coming months, and gas and electricity bills remain high, the temptation to save money and break the law is likely to rise regardless of the consequences. This comes after the energy bills support scheme ended in March.
Energy theft is extremely dangerous and anyone who commits it, risks injury or even death.
Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First, added: “Tampering with your electricity meter risks death by electrocution or fire. It is also illegal, so you could end up in prison. Don’t risk your life or that of your family by stealing energy.”
Tampering with your gas meter can also have disastrous effects, including gas leaks that may lead to catastrophic explosions.
In spite of this, a recent study by Direct Line business insurance found nearly half of electricians and gas engineers (43%) have been asked by customers to tamper with their meters. (Source: Direct Line Group). In addition, 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. (Source: Direct Line Group).
• A London landlord was sentenced to 9 months in prison and fined £90,000 after tampering with energy meters in his 22 rented properties. He offered free electricity to his tenants, putting them and their neighbours in great danger.
• Horror stories in recent years include the tragic death of an 8-year-old boy in an Essex pub garden in 2019, who suffered a fatal electric shock. The landlord was found to have tampered with the electricity supply. He was sentenced to 9 years in prison.
You can find more details about how energy theft has impacted lives on the Stay Energy Safe website .
According to the Retail Energy Code Company, it is estimated that approximately 250,000 cases of energy theft go unreported every year, putting all of us at risk.
David Crawley, from the charity Crimestoppers, said: “The increasing cost of energy is leading some people to act illegally and bypass or tamper with their meter to cut costs. This can put people such as loved ones, employees and customers in grave danger. Innocent victims could suffer the consequences, so we’re appealing to anyone tempted to risk lives for the sake of saving money to think twice.”
Energy theft is a ticking time bomb putting people and communities at risk. Learn more about the dangers of energy theft and how to spot it.