A pensioner living in a two-bedroom property is paying hundreds of pounds a month more for energy than she believes she should be.
Lynn* joined Octopus Energy last November after having issues with her previous supplier who had told her there was a problem with the smart meter.
Unable to keep paying over £500 a month, she was quoted £100 a month by Octopus but racked up a bill of £550 after the first month.
Meter woes: Lynn* cannot access her energy usage through her online account and has racked up a huge bill
When Lynn, whose name has been changed at her request, first disputed the bill she was told the readings on her in-home device (IHD), which shows customers their energy usage, did not match up with her smart meter.
‘They said they don’t agree with the findings on the device and said it wasn’t working properly,’ she told This is Money.
It could be that her smart meter is pushing out the wrong data, or that there could be a faulty appliance that is making her bill much higher than anticipated.
An in-home device (IHD), which shows customers their usage in real time, is not required for a smart meter to function, but it did mean Lynn was left unaware of how much her bills were.
‘I’m a pensioner on my own. I can’t afford £550 a month when I’ve got £800 for the month. I’ve had to turn off everything in the house bar one heater.
‘I’m scared to put anything on. I’m paranoid about turning a light on and I’m measuring out a cup of water to boil the kettle.’
Since then Lynn says she has rung Octopus five times to ask what was going on and each time she has been told there are technical issues and other people were in the same position.
‘Octopus keep saying that my usage is correct. They say they’ll tell their tech team, they know I’m in this position but there’s still nothing they can do.
‘They’re never nasty or rude but every time I’ve spoken to them, they’ve said the same thing. If they’re having technical issues then if I put on another heater, I can’t see how much it’s going to cost me.’
Last week the founder and CEO of Octopus criticised IHDs last week, in response to customers facing problems with faulty devices.
Greg Jackson said: ‘We’ve had a million such sessions looking at those darned things. They’re so bad,’ he said on social media site X, in response to a customer whose device was failing to show their electricity usage.
One of the issues with smart meters is that the computer systems used to support them are only as good as the quality of the data inputted.
In another Tweet/X, Jackson said: ‘Smart meters can be really cheeky – they send about 200 different messages and all need to be in order to get the data.’
Octopus told Lynn they could test her line, but this would require her to turn her smart meter and all electricity off for an hour. She is vulnerable and cannot reach her meter, so Octopus said an engineer could be called out for £80.
‘I don’t have that kind of money to pay for something they said I can do myself. Now I have to wait until someone can help.’
A spokesman for Octopus has since clarified this charge is only payable if the meter isn’t faulty.
After This Is Money got in touch, Octopus told Lynn they would call back this week when she has someone to help her with testing the line.
A spokesman for Octopus Energy said the original quote was based on a significantly lower estimated usage, likely based on the size of Lynn’s property, rather than her actual use.
However Octopus will now do a remote ‘health-check’ with Lynn this week to determine whether there is not a technical issue with the meter, as it could be an issue with an appliance.
‘Her actual usage from her meter shows she should have a monthly bill of roughly £330 for her account to be in a healthy place throughout the year.’
However Octopus admits the figures seem ‘unusually high’ for the size of her house and the usage data should be available on her account.
It has recommended a ‘creep test’ to check the meter is accurately reporting usage and whether any appliances are using more energy than necessary. It said it will also investigate a potential ‘clock error’ to find out why the meter isn’t sending data to her app.
Octopus has sent Lynn a free electric blanket in the meantime and a financial support form to fill out.