Help for residents after £2,900 power surge damage leaves them in dark
The shock power surge that knocked out the electrics in a small property at the same time a smart meter was being installed left three flat owners more in the dark than they could ever have imagined – and shouldering a £2,900 repair bill. However fathoming issues about responsibility, amid a bewildering maze of connection technicalities and officialdom, became overwhelming.
So Ian, Pat and Peter, owners of a small Edwardian house in London, turned to Crusader for help, declaring: “We are the little guys – no match for the experts – and we are the ones losing out.”
Now, although inquiries between the companies continue, the very good news is the consumers have been refunded.
One of the parties involved, operator UK Power Networks (UKPN) which is in charge of the transmission, stepped in, sparing them further to-ing and fro-ing and financial pain.
And for the many others who own, or are planning to buy flats in older properties converted years ago, there’s plenty to note about what happened in this case.
The way the wiring in the group’s house is configured means all the meters and fuses are situated in Ian’s flat.
He decided to switch to a smart meter in early December, but the installation by his supplier Ovo was aborted and the main fuse disconnected because of safety concerns.
At the same time the surge occurred damaging the property’s wiring and with the force exploding a games console Peter was playing on in his flat.
++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] ++;
UKPN was correctly called in, there were hold-ups because of a wait for parts and for over a day the house had no power.
Concerned the situation could not continue, the group called in its own electrician overseen by UKPN to make everything safe, work which led to the £2,900 charge.
An inspection by Ovo in January found there was not enough space to fit Ian’s smart meter and power to the common areas has not been restored. The group is waiting for its choice, a traditional meter, to be installed this week.
Ian contacted Ovo about the repair cost but claims he was told it was not its responsibility. Crusader was told the same.
“There were long waits when I tried to get through and prior to the failed installation several appointments were cancelled at short notice,” Ian added.
“There was also an issue about data protection over the account apparently making it difficult for Ovo and UKPN to be in touch with each other to do the meter exchange – we did despair.
“By that time we were rather crushed by it all and I didn’t make UKPN aware about the bill.”
Crusader did however and help followed. UKPN said: “We are sorry to hear about this customer’s experience. As soon as the power issue was reported to us, we attended to complete repairs and restore power supplies.
“Separately, we will continue working to establish the cause with the customer’s energy supplier.
“Our engineers can restore power to the communal areas once the customer’s supplier has installed a new meter. We have arranged to meet their supplier on site when they are ready to proceed.
Ovo commented: “While visiting the property, our engineer disconnected the main fuse as they spotted a dangerous fault with the electrics. This was the right thing to do to protect both our engineer and residents at the property. UKPN confirmed that there’s no indication that our engineer’s action would have caused any damage. We have booked an appointment to complete the meter exchange safely, as the electrics have now been repaired.”
Regarding the issue over who should pay when damage results when work is taking place, regulator Ofgem said:
“We expect suppliers to safely install smart meters for their consumers. If a supplier has caused damage to a property during an installation and the consumer believes that the meter installer did not follow the correct procedures, they should raise a complaint with their supplier.”
If that does not work, consumers can also take their complaint to the Energy Ombudsman, although that would take time, several months at least.
It would however be the only option because the cost of a court action would almost certainly be extremely expensive and in the group’s case far more than £2,900.
Thanking Crusader Ian, Pat and Peter told Crusader: “We would not have got through this without your help and are very grateful.”
[The group’s names have been changed]
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