DEAN DUNHAM: Is it really a ‘legal obligation’ to have smart meter fitted?

Is it really a ‘legal obligation’ to have a smart meter installed? Consumer rights attorney DEAN DUNHAM responds

Eon has told us that our electricity meter needs to be replaced and it is a ‘legal obligation’ to do so.

Eon says we need to make an appointment for a technician to install a new smart meter.

Is this correct? Our meter was installed in 2003. We have had no problems with it, read it regularly and pay by direct debit.

Sylvia Hill, by email.

Pressure: Energy company Eon claims that customers are now ‘legally obliged’ to switch to a smart meter

Dean Dunham replies: Energy suppliers have been instructed by the government to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install smart meters in homes and the energy companies are eager to do so.

While all providers use different tactics to convince consumers to buy a smart meter, many readers tell me they feel bullied into buying one into believing it’s mandatory.

Smart meters are not mandatory. You are perfectly within your legal rights to decline your provider’s offer or insistence to install one.

This is unless, as Eon claims in your case, your current meter is on the verge of becoming obsolete and cannot be repaired or replaced with another traditional meter.

Meters installed before 2006 have a certain lifespan, depending on the make and model, and are considered obsolete after this date.

Meters installed after 2006 can be tested by taking a data sample to verify accuracy. Typically, such tests are performed every six years.

However, I’ve heard many stories where while this was the excuse given by the power company, it wasn’t actually true.

I’ve also heard of companies claiming that a traditional meter should be replaced due to ‘safety issues’.

In either case, you have the right to ask for proof – and if Eon or another energy supplier can’t provide it, you can refuse to have a smart meter installed.

If a smart meter is the only option and you’re not happy with it, you can request that it be set to work in ‘dumb’ mode, where all communications are turned off.

This means that the ‘smart meter’ functions are disabled and you would read the meter normally.

Will my council tax go down if the garbage collectors go on strike?

I pay £2,172 council tax per year by monthly direct debit.

A partial strike by garbage collectors due to a wage dispute means that our recycling has stopped and yard waste is now collected once a month.

Do I have any right under the Consumer Rights Act to withhold a portion of the monthly charge because they fail to fulfill their portion of our contract?

I pay – they collect! I feel I am entitled to a cost reduction or even a refund as I now have to drive to the recycling depot to clear out the rubbish they failed to collect.

Jeff Richardson, by email.

Dean Dunham replies: This is unfortunately a question I get asked all over the country. In most scenarios, where a service is provided to a consumer, the Consumer Rights Act will provide protection.

However, this is one of the few cases where the Consumer Rights Act does not apply, as the Municipal Tax Act does not create a service contract between local authorities and residents.

Instead, the law says council tax is a way to fund local authorities without requiring you to provide any service in return for your payment.

A reduction in services such as household waste collection does not therefore automatically entitle you to a reduction in your municipal tax assessment.

That said, one possible remedy would be to make a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (

It will ask your local authority to explain the reasons for the failed collections and, if it believes it has acted unreasonably, may award you compensation.

  • Write to Dean Dunham, Money Mail, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB or email The Daily Mail assumes no legal liability for answers provided.