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Iceni Magazine | September 25, 2020

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Two in five East of England residents unaware of this life-threatening risk in their own home

Two in five East of England residents unaware of this life-threatening risk in their own home

  • 40% of East of England consumers don’t realise that meter cheating causes fatal fires and explosions
  • The practice causes at least one death or injury every 10 days
  • Only 46% of people would report energy theft because of the safety risk – highlighting a shortfall in public understanding

Two in five (40%) East of England residents are unaware that energy theft – or meter cheating – can cause a serious and potentially life-threatening risk to their safety. Meter cheating causes at least one injury or death every 10 days in the UK.

The practice occurs when somebody illegally tampers with, or completely bypasses, their electricity or gas meter so it doesn’t properly record usage, meaning they can avoid paying for some or all of their supply.

Even one incident of meter tampering poses a serious threat to public safety, leaving consumers with unsafe gas and electrical supplies, which in turn can put them at risk of electric shocks, fires, and even explosions in extreme cases.

Around a quarter (26%) of East of England residents stated they are not aware that energy theft can lead to fires, with nearly a third (29%) not knowing that meter cheating can cause electric shocks. Perhaps even more concerningly, a further 45% of people in the East of England do not appreciate the risks of gas explosions which could occur at home or even in a public building such as a shop or restaurant.

Moreover, when asked what their main reason would be for reporting an incident of energy theft, only 46% of people stated it would be due to the safety risk. This is a relatively low figure given the seriousness of the potential issues caused, pointing to a need for further education amongst the general public.

Many consumers may that meter cheating is a ‘victimless crime’, as perpetrators are only stealing power from large companies that can afford it. However, the potential cost to lives is enormous.

The study was commissioned by outsourced utility collections specialists Echo Managed Services and Grosvenor Services Group, and endorsed by Crimestoppers UK. It surveyed 2,000 UK residents and found worryingly low levels of awareness with regards to the practice of energy theft.

Lloyd Birkhead, managing director of Grosvenor Services Group, said: “Given that the consequences of energy theft can be potentially life threatening, it’s concerning that such a large proportion of the nation has no comprehension of the dangers they may face due to the actions of others in the community.

“One reason for such low awareness may be that reporting of the most serious real incidences of energy theft is relatively low, meaning that general media coverage is also low as a consequence. Gas explosions, for example, are not always reported as being as a result of a tampered meter, although highly suspected, unless 100% proven. 

“People need to ultimately understand that this is not a victimless crime, but that they, their families and their friends could be in serious danger if meter cheating isn’t stamped out.”

Roger Critchell, director of operations at Crimestoppers UK, which runs ‘Stay Energy Safe’, a free helpline for people to anonymously report energy theft, said: Meter cheating costs lives. However, given that it is under reported, it’s understandable that dangers of this crime are not fully understood by members of the public in the East of England.  

“Stay Energy Safe was setup to allow people to give information about energy crimes anonymously, but also to educate them on the potentially devastating consequences if it goes unreported. We hope that through this service, the public can have a significant impact on tackling this issue, which will help to improve the safety of people within their homes.”

Would you know how to spot the signs of meter cheating? Visit the Stay Energy Safe website for more information.


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