Following Avro Energy’s failure to sign up to the smart meter wireless network, Ofgem has threatened to ban the energy provider from taking on any new customers.
Ofgem has been working to have all energy providers become Data Communications Companies (DCC) so that the installation of next generation SMETS2 smart meters can move forward.
DCCs are “leading the design, build, test and integration of the data and communications infrastructure”, which will connect smart meters to energy providers, as well as network operators and authorised service users.
Energy suppliers were meant to sign up to become DCCs by 25 November 2017. This means Avro has missed the deadline by more than a year. The implementation of the due date was supposed to encourage providers to begin taking the necessary steps to roll out smart meters “to all their domestic and small business customers by the end of 2020”.
Consequentially, Ofgem has threatened to put a ban on the provider if it does not sign up by May 2019. The latest possible date for Avro to become a DCC is 25 July 2019.
Customers who switch to Avro will lose the operation of their DCC connected smart meters, and, at present, current Avro customers will be unable to use their smart meters at all.
The warning proposal from Ofgem, said: “The particular behaviour of concern giving rise to the proposal to make a final order is that Avro failed to become a DCC User by the deadline and remains non-compliant.
“Should that continue, there is a likelihood of increasing numbers of customers with smart meters suffering harm by either switching to Avro and losing their smart functionality, or, for existing customers, remaining without smart functionality longer than is necessary.”
The regulator also explained why it was so necessary for Avro to take quick action to remedy the situation. In a statement, Ofgem said: “These smart meters will operate as traditional meters with customers needing to provide manual meter readings and unable to access the full benefits of smart meters.
“This can cause consumer detriment and could undermine consumer confidence in the smart meter programme and the switching process.”
Chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, voiced concern that Avro’s current failure to become a DCC will undermine consumer confidence and experience.
“Suppliers shouldn’t risk consumer confidence in the programme by giving their customers a sub-par experience. Smart meters are critical for the long-term development of our energy infrastructure and it is vital that we get it right.”
Additionally Gillian Guy has encouraged the Government to publish “a new cost-benefit analysis on the roll-out”, due to the serious delays that have occurred and have likely increased costs considerably.