We give you the lowdown on the negative and positive aspects of pre-payment gas and electricity meters, how they work, and how to get them tested if there are ‘in-accuracy issues’.
Pre-payment Meters – how they work
A pre-payment meter allows you to pay your debt in smaller monthly instalments, than that of a monthly or quarterly payment plan.
You do not have a build up of debt at the end of a quarterly period.
You will need to keep to a weekly payment plan, and make sure you top up enough credit on the same day each week to pay the weekly debt payment, as well as keeping enough credit for your current energy usage.
If you do not have enough money to pay the weekly payment plan, then the next time you top-up, the money owed from the weekly payment plan will be deducted from the credit you add to the meter, before any other credit is allowed for current energy usage.
If you use the emergency credit, the meter will deduct from your next top-up, the emergency credit, as well as a ‘daily charge’ for the emergency credit used. (The emergency credit on a pre-payment meter is therefore viewed as a type of ‘overdraft’, and will be paid back, with a daily amount charged to it).
Sometimes, you may have problems with the ‘pre-payment meter cards’ which you can obtain from a local shop. When placed in the meter, it may suddenly display an error, and will not therefore update the credit you purchased. In this case, you will then need to go back to your local shop and collect another pre-payment card.
You have a weekly payment plan of £30
You have not topped up for 2 weeks
After 2 weeks you put £70 credit onto the meter.
The meter will deduct your non-payment of £60 (2 weeks x £30), and leave £10.
The meter will the deduct the ‘daily standing charge’ you did not pay for 2 weeks from the £10 left, and leave you with the rest of the money for ‘credit.’
After you collect the card, you will need to place it into your pre-payment meter, then phone the Energy Supplier (calls can take up to 1 hour), and inform them of the issue. They will then tell you to go back to your local shop with the new card, which will update the amount you paid on the old card, to the new card. (This system of backwards and forwards to the local shop can be cumbersome).
If your pre-payment card fails to work on a Sunday, or out-of-hours, when your local shop is closed, then the Energy Supplier may take up to 4 hours to attend your property to fix the issue. On arrival, they will normally place you on £10 worth of emergency credit, which you will need to pay back, with a daily emergency credit charge.
Pre-payment meters have been known to deliver incorrect read-outs (around 11% of meters in the UK are not operating within statutory limits and 13% have other failures noted). If this is the case, you can request your Energy Supplier to have the meter checked for any issues, such as ‘over-calculating.
Pre-payment Gas Meter Testing
If you believe that your Meter is providing in incorrect read-outs, you can request your Energy Supplier to send the meter off for testing. The company (appointed by Ofgem), is SGS UK Ltd, and should provide a meter test within 6 to 8 weeks. A replacement gas meter will be provided by the Supplier during the testing stage.
If the meter is found to be reading inaccurately, you will be refunded whatever you have over-paid. If on the other hand, your meter was reading ‘correctly’, a charge will be made by Energy Supplier, (usually around £70); which is either added to your overall debt, or will be requested in full.
It is worth acknowledging that when the Energy Supplier visits your home to remove the inaccurate gas meter, under Ofgem’s rules, they are ‘required’ to make sure the meter is securely ‘sealed’, (with sealed tags), and is securely packaged before sending off. You should therefore make sure of this when the Energy Supplier’s engineer removes the meter – that it is sealed with these tags if not; the meter will fail the first ‘visual examination’ with SGS.
We at eComplaint have contacted SGS, requesting how they accurately test gas meters. The following documentation can be read in PDF: SGS Testing
Electricity Pre-payment Meter Testing
Unlike gas meters, electricity meters can be tested on-site (at your home). An Ofgem appointed examiner from SGS will visit your home, and will carry out tests on the meter and the meter installation. Dependent upon the results obtained during the on-site test, SGS may remove the meter for further testing at an Ofgem appointed laboratory, and will replace the old meter with another one.
After the laboratory tests, the examiner will issue his or her Determination.
If the meter was reading accurately, the Energy Supplier may initiate a cost on top for removal and testing of the meter however; if the meter is providing inaccurate read-outs, the Energy Supplier will need to compensate you for any over-payments made.
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How to check your tariff on the common ‘Landis + Gyr’ Pre-Payment Gas Meter
The following information is supplied for use with Landis + Gyr Gas Meters, which are the most common types of gas meters in use in the UK at present. This is because these older meters are soon all to be updated to wireless versions, which communicate with the Energy Supplier directly, as as per central government requests for further control of consumer energy supplies.
As we have only initiated this sequence on a wireless Landis + Gyr meter regarding an accuracy test for a client, we cannot guarantee that this will work on all gas meters within the UK, and certain information may not be displayed on the older Landis + Gyr versions (without wireless communication).
1. Press the red button to start the meter.
(i) GD Remaining – (Gas Debt Remaining), the amount of debt you owe.
(ii) GD Week Min – (Gas Debt Week Minimum), the minimum amount the meter will charge per week for debt, even if you use no gas.
(iii) GD Week Max – (Gas Debt Week Maximum), the maximum amount of debt the meter will charge per week for debt.
(iv) GD Rec Rate – (Gas Debt Recovery Rate), usually shown at 90%. This means that for every £10, the meter will take 90% of the GD Week Min. eg. If the GD Week Min was £10, and you placed only £10 on the meter; £9 (90%) will be taken for the gas debt, and £1 will go towards gas credit. However, the extra £1 which you did not pay (£10 – GD Week Min), will be added to next week’s Debt Recovery, and the meter will deduct the £10 GD Week Min, and the extra £1 you owe = £11 for debt.
(v) Last Credit – the last amount of credit you topped up, and the date of such.
(vi) Last for Debt – the last amount which was taken by the meter towards the debt (this may also display a date with the amount).
(vii) Last for EmCr – the last amount taken for emergency credit.
(viii) Last for Gas – How much credit there was for gas in your last top-up.
(ix) NGD Remaining – (Non-gas Debt Remaining), this details any amounts for meter replacement fees, bailiff fees, debt collectors fees which are added to the debt.
(x) NGD Week Min – (Non-gas Debt Week Minimum), the minimum amount to be taken each week for non-gas debt.
(xi) NGD Week Max – (Non-gas Debt Week Maximum), the maximum amount to be taken each week for non-gas debt.
(xii) NGD Rec Rate % – (Non-gas Debt Recovery Rate Percentage), again, this is similar to: (iv) GD Rec Rate.
(xiii) Ref – this displays you meter reference number.
(xiv) Last Cred Adj – (Last Credit Adjustment). If you have a wireless meter, you may see this displayed. It details a message sent directly from the Energy Supplier, to adjust the credit on the meter.
(xv) EmCr Limit – This is the amount of emergency credit this meter will allow you to have (a bit like an overdraft, which needs to be paid back, and incurs a daily charge if you do not pay back on time).
(xvi) EmCr Thresh – (Emergency Credit Threshold), the amount shown here will activate the ’emergency credit feature if normal credit drops to this amount.
(xvii) Time – The current time acknowledged by the meter.
(xviii) Tariff Costs 1,2 and 3 – These tariff costs were displayed as £0.00 on the client’s meter, so we cannot be sure exactly the information the provide. They could stand for multiple tariffs, eg. economy, high rate etc (we are not sure).
(xix) Tariff Cost 4 – this details the amount (pence per kw hour), you will be charged at, which is the higher rate. For example, if the rate here displayed 7.345, then for the first part of the tariff, you will be charged at the rate of 7.345 pence.
(xx) Tariff Cost 5 – this details the amount (pence per kw hour), you will be charged at, after the initial higher rate charges at tariff 4. For example, if the rate here displayed 5.026, then you will be charged at 5.026 pence per day for each kw hour used, after the initial charge at tariff 4.
(xxi) Standing Chrg – the amount of ‘daily standing charge’ which is deducted each day from your credit. If you do not top-up sufficiently, this will be deducted on your next top-up.
(xxii) Tariff Wide 4 – This amount displays the first amount of kw hours per day which is charged at the ‘higher rate.’ For example, if this displays 7.34, then for the first 7.34 kw hours per day you will be charged at Tariff Cost 4, and then for the rest of the day, you will be charged as Tariff Cost 5.
(xxiii) C.V. – the calorific value that the meter is running at. (mega-joules per cubic meters, or MJ/M3). This should display a reading of around 40.600 in the UK, (give or take a few digits), which would work out correctly for the pence per kw hour charged. If the meter is running ‘way over’ this value, eg. 45.600 or over, please get in contact with your Energy Supplier, as you would have been paying too much for your energy usage.
2. When the screen display shows, hold down the red button to provide you with the Gas owing.
3. As you click through the screens by using the red button (you do not need to hold it down a second time, just click through), you will come across a range of information which is detailed below: