Woman told to stand by electricty meter for more than a month

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ScottishPower compensation

Sue Hufton was on an Economy 7 tariff from Scottish Power - one of almost 4m UK householders that get cheap electricity at certain times of the day. Or at least, she thought she was. Why though were her bills so high? After several calls to Scottish Power, Hufton was none the wiser.

Scottish Power then suggested she stand by the meter itself over a period of weeks, to check for unusually high usage. What were they thinking?

Meter madness

"Over a period of 39 days, I kept a close eye on the meter around the time I thought that it may change over. I lost the will to live in the end." Hufton, 58, though was a Which? member and got in contact with the consumer rights organisation, who took up her case.

In fact, Hufton's property was actually consuming electricity at the most expensive time of the day. There are now concerns millions of UK households may have paid substantially higher for their energy over the years due to poorly calibrated meters and insufficient guidance from utility providers.

Varies nationwide

"The actual times of the off-peak period vary across the country," Scottish Power told AOL Money. "When contacted, we should have been able to provide the customer with the correct information, and we apologise for not offering the levels of customer service that would have been expected."

Eventually, Scottish Power told Hufton her off-peak hours were midnight to 7am GMT and 1am to 8am BST. It sent her a bunch of flowers to say sorry and reimbursed her £75 for her costs.

However energy suppliers have no obligation to check the accuracy of the meters, some with radio clocks to work out how much energy is being consumed.

AOL Money checked with Npower for guidance. How can customers tell if their meter is giving accurate readings that will ensure a customer is not over-charged?

"Npower aims to check our Economy 7 meters," said company spokesperson Charlie Martin, "like all of our meters, every two years for their safety and to ensure they're working correctly." Somewhat limited guidance.

How smart?

Increasingly, old-style gas and electricity meters are being replicated by smart meters under new government plans. Smart meters are supposed to record your exact gas and electricity usage and then send all the info back to your supplier without the need for a reading.

"It's outrageous that consumers are being left to work out the hours on their Economy 7 tariffs," a Which spokesperson told the Express. "It's this kind of poor customer service that erodes trust in the energy industry."