back to article £99,999, what's your emergency? Paramedics rush to OAP's aid after shock meter reading

It's no secret that the UK's smart meter rollout has been a bit, well, shit – whether it's the buggers befuddling Saxons by deciding to start speaking Welsh or simply the fact that the project is perennially delayed and over budget. "A dog's breakfast," you might say, and indeed one economist has said exactly that. Now the …

  1. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    He Called The Wrong Number.

    Should have dialed 0118999881999119725-3

  2. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    "Let's hope someone wasn't actually dying while E.on desperately tried to show how much it values its customers – but fair play to them for erring on the side of caution"

    Maybe im a cynic, but i think someone at Eon was taking the piss here.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Interpreting joke comments

      Could also depend on the call centre person - given lots of call centres calls end up processed hundreds or thousands of miles away, then its the sort of thing could easily be misinterpreted by someone in East Europe, India etc. as if English is not your first language (even if it is!) tongue in cheek humour can easily be missed.

      Though if it was someone with "UK native" language / humour interpretation skills on the other end of the phone then would agree with Tigra 07 that it was a bit of P taking

      1. Da Weezil

        Re: Interpreting joke comments

        Actually guys you are *dead* wrong.

        In many UK call centres there is a protocol that requires the agent handling the call to alert a team leader or similar if they become concerned about the health and wellbeing of a caller - either physical or mental. This can and does lead to concerns being passed on to the relevant emegency service - its considered to be "better safe than sorry" in these cases

        This probably wouldnt happen with an overseas call centre and is another reason that they are a bad idea that often produces a worse customer experience than a UK based centre.

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: Interpreting joke comments

          Yes. I worked for one of the Big Six energy companies and the call centres (in the north of England) had rules about what to do if they thought they were dealing with a Situation on the other end. And some of the staff were truly lovely people and would call the Police or emergency services if they felt something was seriously strange. I thought it quite nice.

    2. David Neil

      Not so sure

      Maybe some youngster who remembered that calls are recorded and monitored and figured better safe than sorry.

      Imagine if he had keeled over, and they hadn't flagged it...

      1. RobMo

        Re: Not so sure

        Damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Poor call centre staff always get the blame.

    3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Taking the piss

      Not at all. Can't have your customers dying before they settle their bill. Too much paperwork.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Taking the piss

        Actually, it's the easiest and least resistant method to just send a bill to the estates... gets paid rather promptly.

        1. TrumpSlurp the Troll

          Re: Taking the piss

          Bills are only paid after Probate is granted.

          This can take quite a long time.

    4. fredj

      A Baker friend, many years ago had a three phase supply. Two meters duly record electricity use and the third ran backwards and generated a refund. The supplier was told many times. "Don't be daft sir!". We could see the meter was clearly marked substandard. Again, "Don't be daft sir. The inevitable happened and the meter recorded past zero to however many nines. Even then it took them a while to understand what they could clearly see but they did admit such a bill was impossible.

  3. MOV r0,r0

    After finding their best offers required a SMETS meter, I nearly kept my account of 14 years good standing with Eon.

    Emphasis on 'Bye!'

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      YMMV - I just switched to them, no requirement for a "smart" meter, still the cheapest deal I could find, and in theory all green electricity, too. I'm happy with that.

      OTOH, Enstroga, who I switched away from (I didn't choose them, just bought a house they were supplying), I could quite easily see them giving a customer a heart attach as they are a steaming pile of turds - trying to block my transfer unless I gave the my bank details. Stay away from them!!

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Fingers crossed that Eon don't phone you every month asking to arrange the smart meter installation like they did to me a couple of years ago. (no mention of meters before joining)

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Quite possibly, but I'm ready with my "demoralise a sales rep" spiel about the cost/benefit of the devices, and on the first call I'll ask it to at least get noted on the account that I don't want one. EDF did the same thing in my last house, but seemed capable enough to block such sales calls once I'd politely pointed out that I didn't want one (having built it to high spec so there wasn't actually anything I could do to reduce consumption)

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            E.on were calling me to arrange smart meter fittings for months after I switched to a different provider. Idiots, the lot of them. Not that the new one is any better, or cheaper, despite their promises. Oh well.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          EDF send me fortnightly letter saying the installers are currently in my area ('area' being the whole of the UK)

          Sometimes they even wrap them round a bill then complain when I haven't paid

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Legally smart

            I've had them call me up and say that by law I must have a smart meter installed before [whatever the date is]. I politely remind them that the government put the onus on the electricity companies to provide all their customers with a smart meter by [whatever that damn date is], and that I'm not obliged to accept one. *crickets*

            Next time, though, I must make a note of that damn date because it's really bugging me that I can't remember it now!

            1. JetSetJim Silver badge

              Re: Legally smart

              energy firms must have offered them to all UK households by the end of the new deadline, which is now the end of 2024

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          People I got switched to after my original provider went bust are doing this - in a more subtle way.

          I get a letter asking for a meter reading EVERY month.

          I can only assume they think I will get a smart meter just to avoid the hassle.

          In actual fact, I havent bothered giving them a reading in nearly 2 years.

          I probably owe them quite a lot by now.

    2. The Nazz Silver badge

      My provider

      sent a letter stating that their fitter was going to fit a smart meter on 8th November and asked me to confirm that date or change it. Note no option (offered) to cancel it permanently.

      So i called them :

      Me : I don't want this meter fitting on the 8th.

      They : Ok, would you like to change the date?

      Me : Yes please.

      They : Oooooh great, (shuufles about in their seat), what date would you like Sir?

      Me : 29th February 2057

      Bastards hung up didn't they.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Re: My provider

        Did they not even point out that 2057 isn't a leap year...?

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: asked me to confirm that date or change it. Note no option (offered) to cancel it permanently.

        Yeah, but...

        If they cottoned on to Microsoft's way of doing things you will suddenly find that your service has been cut off and you are being forcibly upgraded [sic].

    3. sitta_europea Bronze badge

      [quote]After finding their best offers required a SMETS meter, I nearly kept my account of 14 years good standing with Eon.[/quote]

      My wife put it best. She said "Eon can Foff!"

  4. Blockchain commentard

    If E.On loses a customer, their customer retension dept. gets a bollocking. They'll do anything to keep a customer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Except not require them to have an overpriced, inaccurate meter?

    2. osakajin Bronze badge

      Ah so thats why. Save a life save a customer.

    3. MOV r0,r0

      I rang that department at EOn prior to leaving hoping there might be some price flexibility but they offered worse rates than shown on their website! Apparently phoning in person precludes better web self-service rates.

      I concluded they needed to sweat all their existing punters at the expense of losing a few. Hello Bulb.

  5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    We see our pensions go up in pennies, the bills go up in pounds.

    Maybe, oh I don't know, stop voting Tory then, and some more money might start going towards pensions, rather than tax-gifts to the rich. (the amount going on state pensions this year is apparently £96Bn, which isn't very much in the scale of things, a little over 10% of the total spending in the UK's budget, although it's still more than 7 times the amount that we actually "send to"* the EU).

    *"send to" is a misleading term, as any competent economist will point out that the benefits to the economy (i.e returns on that investment) are estimated at anywhere between 5 and 15 times that amount. In other words, when (if) we leave the EU, the benefits we'll lose would probably have paid for those pensions...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On behalf of everybody who reads Bootnotes for light entertainment: kindly, fuck off

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Achievement unlocked:


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Achievement unlocked:


    2. Lee D Silver badge

      "These guys are bad, vote the other guys!"

      "The other guys are bad, vote these guys!"

      I'll have even the slightest interest in politics when it isn't just based on binary contrarian voting based on disappointment with unrealised expectations that the other side has just as many of.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "binary contrarian voting"

        There are more than two parties in the UK. The "Stop voting Tory" person didn't specify which party they would prefer.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: obligitory

          "binary contrarian voting"

          I *would* have voted for lord buckethead in the last general election, if I had had the choice to do so.

          However, given the constituency I live in, I actually had to chose which of two parties I really, really, really, didn't want and vote for the other one. Had I voted for the party I wanted to, the lot I really didn't want might have got an MP, because it was a pretty close run poll. This is not a perfect system of democracy.... *Please* can we have a system of proportional representation like that used in the EU elections.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: obligitory

          Indeed not, I'd recommend voting for literally anyone else, even the Brexit Corporation Party, just to split the far-right vote. At least until we get some sort of PR in this country.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      (the amount going on state pensions this year is apparently £96Bn, which isn't very much in the scale of things)

      According to this website, UK expenditure on pensions is £160bn this year. Now it's about 60% higher than you thought, is that enough?

      "Maybe, oh I don't know, stop voting Tory then, and some more money might start going towards pensions,"

      It's also a lie though. Because of the ridiculous and unaffordable triple lock, pensions must go up at the fastest of 2.5%, wages and inflation. Thus pensions will always go up at least as quickly as tax contributions, assuming constant burden. Since longevity increases, you have one of a few options:

      1) Increase pension age rapidly, none of this one year here one year there nonsense. Add ten years on.

      2) Continually increase the tax burden on workers until they all give up and leave, then use another option.

      3) End the triple lock.

      4) Kill off some pensioners.

      1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

        Triple Lock?

        The Triple Lock was due to be reduced to a Double Lock increase in 2020, now put back to at least 2022. This would remove the 2.5% minimum, and leave the CPI and Average Earnings factors, but as it happens, both last year and this, Average Earnings were up 4% in the months July - September, so the 2.5% factor does not come into it. Obviously, if the AE factor drops to less than 2.5%, then that factor will come into force again, until whichever government we have in place in 2022 decides to do something different.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        5) Raise taxation to pay for better pensions. I know that nobody wants to pay more taxes, and for the poorest, any raise affects the disproportionately, so here's a crazy idea - tax people with more than enough more. If they dont; like it and want to move somewhere else, then fair enough, as long as we close all those off-shore tax loopholes that our country is one of the worst in the world for allowing to happen...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Point 4

        Maybe they have a deal with some pension funds.

    4. Gustavo Fring

      just read

      That pensons account for 6.9% of Gov expenditure and that should drop to 6.1% by the time

      e they increase the pension age to 70. That forecast does not include "shrinkage" induced by Brexit tho. Never heard anyone explain whther these displays are actually good enough to monitor the usgae/power of single appliances eg gaming PC and reduce said usage to save them money building power stations .

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: just read

        "just read

        That pensons [sic] account for 6.9% of Gov expenditure and that should drop to 6.1% by the time"

        Read it again then. That's 6.9% of GDP, not government expenditure.

    5. Pete4000uk


      You telling me Labour are the saviour of pensions?

  6. Stevie Silver badge

    You can't be jocular with call-centre staff, Ted.

    You can't be jocular with anyone anymore. Anything you say will be used a a lever against you somehow, be it in a sleet of "Insert Favorite Red Button Issue-ism" accusations on Twitface, Arsebook etc or straw man attacks on same for any bloody thing the read imagines can be got away with on the thinnest excuses.

    Go on. Fire away.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: You can't be jocular with call-centre staff, Ted.

      Or as I prefer : 'no good deed goes unpunished'

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When Mum died, we were going through her papers and discovered she was a couple of hundred pounds IN CREDIT. Going back through old bills, we discovered that one meter reading was distinctly odd. Checking the old dial meter, the reader had read one of the higher wheels a being just past a number, but alternate wheels ran in opposite directions and the real reading would have been just under... hence one big bill taken by direct debit and subsequent bills being massively in credit (unfortunately she was getting to the point where she was easily confused and possibly didn't notice... she certainly doesn't appear to have spoken to anyone about it)

    (strangely the meter readers could get in to read the electric meter but always failed to read the gas meter which was outside... they could simply have asked!)

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      (strangely the meter readers could get in to read the electric meter but always failed to read the gas meter which was outside... they could simply have asked!)

      When settling up my father's estate , we had a taste of what he had to put up with. being SSE and their meter readers for his lockup

      Got a estimated bill for 1000 units because "they couldn't access the meter" (they were always doing this)

      Insisted we paid up...... but then we pointed out the meter was in a locked box... on the end of the lockup and we did not have a key to the box, but SSE meter readers did, and in any case , dad had been dead for the past 3 months and highly unlikely to have used any power....

      Finally handed the matter over to the solicitors when SSE threatened court action.....


      1. Oliver Mayes

        My mother died last January, gas company served the estate a bill for £40,000. This was in spite of there being no functioning gas appliances in the house for 3 years. Seems their agent had misread one of the digits on the meter 4 years back and when I provided the final reading it was lower than that previous one. They deduced that the meter must have hit 999999 and looped back around to reach the "lower" number. Took 2 months to get them to correct that.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I see a silver lining....

    E.on customer care? Hi, I have just seen my meter and I feel like I am being screwed. What time will you be over....?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice to see an energy company showing some concern for their customers - bit of a contrast to the experience I had with the complete shower of c***ts that is Scottish Power.

    Another customer had not been paying their bills a few years and for reasons best known to themselves, Scottish Power just stuck that person's arrears onto my account, leaving me seemingly thousands of pounds in their debt. I spent a long time and many, many phone calls trying to get the matter resolved to no avail.

    I remember one particular call where I was told something along the lines of "yeah, whatever, someone will call you in the next 7 to 10 days". I explained that I'd been told that plenty of times before, but nobody ever did contact me - I wanted to speak to someone now to get the matter resolved. I said that this was all their mistake, and I was finding the situation of being seen to be heavily in debt like this very stressful. I suffer with depression, this whole thing had triggered me into self-harming again, I was starting to have suicidal thoughts,

    Their response was still "yeah, whatever, someone will call you in the next 7 to 10 days"

    Heartless f***ers. I still have the scars from that little episode.

    So, kudos to E.on for actually giving a toss

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Would be interested in how that finally got resolved.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        After a lot of grief, I got the regulator involved (a process which brings with it its own delays). SP agreed to cancel the erroneous debt and provide me with a derisory amount of money as compensation. I told the regulators that I found the compensation payment insulting, and wanted a full explanation and apology for what had happened. As a result I got f*** all money and a one line letter from SP saying (and I'm quoting more-or-less verbatim here) "we apologise for an error on our part".

        At the risk of repeating myself, a complete shower of c***s

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Try asking for their registered address (AFAIK they're obliged to do that) as you need it to start legal proceedings.

      Alternatively ask the call handler for their full name as you'll need it for your Ofgem complain.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        First you have to escalate through their procedures, then when that inevitably fails, you have to ask for a deadlock letter or have waited 6-8 weeks, then you can go through the CAB (jolly nice people), and then you can go through Ofgem.

        Had to do most of this to get a transfer out from Enstroga done. I think their customer service playbook is to not let you do anything to try and hang on to the account as long as possible. Expect/hope they'll to go bust soon...

    3. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Leccy can only be back billed 12 months nowadays:

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...the complete shower of c***ts that is Scottish Power."

      With you there. I'd NEVER have become one of their customers if after ExtraEnergy went bust Ofgem hadn't decided to hand my account over to them without consulting, well, anyone as far as I can tell -- unless maybe they took a nice fat back-hander^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H fee from the complete shower of c***ts in Spain.

      Anyway, enough ranting.

      Let's call them SPANISH because that's what they are, not Scottish.

      And c***nts as well, of course, because they're that too.

      And fraudsters, 'cause they make up bills that have no basis in reality and then threaten the customer with extra fees, visits from debt collectors, credit default and you fucking name it and they'll fucking do it to further their fucking protection racket.


  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "We have also offered to investigate the fault with his in-home display unit and we are in discussions about what further support may be available to him."

    Support such as replacing his meter with a proper one?

  11. Handlebars

    defibrillate the meter

    I'm pretty sure if I put the defib paddles on the meter it'll fix the problem.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: defibrillate the meter


    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: defibrillate the meter

      Might not want to try that on the gas meter

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        Re: defibrillate the meter

        I dunno... your house would be a whole lot warmer, and from a blast radius standpoint it wouldn't be possible to read your meter - so no bills. Granted, you might not actually have a house at that point, but I feel that would just be splitting hairs.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: defibrillate the meter

          I was driving past a house once when there was a boom and the back of my car "shifted" a bit in a direction it really should not do. The house is still there, no one was killed and the blinds and curtains were strewn across the road. It was all quite surreal and DOES NOT happen in slow motion like in films and TV.

  12. Daedalus Silver badge

    Wetware isn't much better

    I got a bill recently for way more than our usual tab. It turned out that the meter reader, bless their cotton socks, read 60994 as 61994, 1000 kWh over. It's understandable with the old-style meter we have, where each digit is read from a pointer against a small dial, the dials go alternately in opposite directions, and you're supposed to take to lesser of the two numbers that the dial pointer is between. With the impending turnover from the 60900's to the 61000's, the thousands pointer was oh-so-close to the "1", but the reader should have known that for 61994 the pointer would be closer to the "2".

    Well, you pay peanuts.....

  13. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    but fair play to them for erring on the side of caution.

    It was probably the bean counters who dialled 999. Can't be having that size of bad debt on the books.

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge


    Is that how long customers are expected to wait before their call is answered?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the current climate of blame the its not sueprising that EOn reacted this way .... just imagine the headlines if he'd actually had a heart attack and he'd saif that EOn call centre had ignored him and left him to possibly die

    A few years ago I did a first aid course and the trainer talking about how to deal with injured people talked about how he'd had an accident at work where he'd broken some ribs (fell off back of a lorry and landed on phone in a chest pocket) - story was to explain how not to leave someone lying on cold concrete bvut he said he was impressed how fast ambulance came and one of the people on the course said they were an ambulance dispatcher and when someone phoned 999 and was asked if the person had chest pains they would ahve said yes (obviously from cracked ribs) and "middle-aged man with chest pains" would have matched "potential heart attack" and triggered a high priority blue-light ambulance dispatch!

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: fell off back of a lorry

      Surely that would have been put through to the police first, not the ambulance service?

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: fell off back of a lorry

        Last time I called (30+ years ago) I was asked which service I required and then transferred

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: fell off back of a lorry

        Fell, not pushed!

  16. JustWondering

    "A dog's breakfast"

    That would be after it has gone through the dog?

  17. mark4155

    Quite clearly an error – unless ....

    "Quite clearly an error – unless old Ted has been running an illicit data centre under his house."

    Or possibly a farm requiring high wattage lighting and extraction facilities in his loft? Maybe both..... Toodle Pip.

  18. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Scam phones: Off topic but maybe worth reading

    My octogenarian mum fell for the decades old "Press One Scam" this week. A cold caller claiming to be a CEO eventually persuaded her to press 1 on her phone to save her internet. Probably cost her, but worse, now she is top of the scammers list. I scolded her for her naivety and she blocked that number.

    Tonight, at black o'clock, the phone rang and I answered to nothing. Just a nuisance call of silence waking my parents. And then again 15 minutes later. I take it is a revenge attack for blocking the original number which I don't know, but this number is 08005875290. I advise you all to block it in advance, on your phones and your relatives phones, as I now have. I'll find out the original scam phone number tomorrow and report back if anyone is interested, and try to progress this with my parents phone company.

    1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Scam phones: Off topic but maybe worth reading

      Do you have a 'reverse number lookup' website?

      Here in Oz we have a couple of sites that let you put in the phone number and it tells you who or where the call is from and if (if known) it is a scam/spam caller.

      Very handy for blocking numbers when my elderly parents were alive especially mum, who had 'old timers' and I hated the thought of any c*%t taking advantage of her.

      Unfortunately, political parties are exempt from the listings.

    2. Nick Kew

      Re: Scam phones: Off topic but maybe worth reading

      I would check a minor-nuisance number like that. In this case your impression is well-supported. Other times a number might be spoofed and random.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This sucks. Didn't some Aussie fellow get charged $68,000 for a beer recently?

  20. Bruce_c

    I'm just waiting for a big bill

    My recently installed not very smart meter occasionally takes the notion of displaying realtime readings that are a factor of 1000 out (in their favour obviously). I have a handy photo of it showing 10MW usage (on an 80Amp supply) should it ever come up.

    Icon cos that's the state the cable head would have been in

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