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Wales and West Utilities

Safety warning as more people tamper with utilities meters as cost-of-living crisis continues

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Gas emergency and pipeline service Wales & West Utilities is warning people not to tamper with their energy meters due to the risk of house fires and electrocutions.

The utility company is joining with the rest of the UK’s energy operators to warn people of the risks associated with meter tampering and general electrical equipment interference, as new figures show an almost 400% increase in reported incidents between 2017 and 2021, a trend officials predict will continue to rise in 2022.

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Tampering with meters and cutting into wires or pipes to interfere with energy supplies has caused house fires, gas leaks and electrocutions. Electricity meters in UK premises are connected to a voltage that can be fatal if not installed by a qualified professional and gas meters ensure there’s a constant and safe flow of gas into a property.

Recently, investigators identified illegal meter tampering as the cause of a tragic fire that gutted a property in Glasgow and led to a woman’s death. Police discovered the fire was started by a spark from a prepayment meter that had been illegally bypassed.

Though the UK’s safety standards are some of the highest in the world, the dramatic rise in tampering and electrical equipment interference means householders are at risk of further incidents. Operators are seeing DIY attempts at meter tampering that frequently lead to live electricity conductors being exposed or unsealed holes in gas supply pipes.

Clive Book, Head of Operations at Wales & West Utilities, said: “While times are challenging for many at the moment, it’s important we all know of the dangers of tampering with energy equipment in the home.

“Tampering with gas or electricity equipment has huge risks which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Please don’t be tempted – it’s simply not worth the risk.”

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Peter Smith, Director of Policy, National Energy Action said: “National Energy Action campaigns to ensure everyone in the UK can live in a warm and safe home. Given the recent relentless increases in energy bills, we know 6.7 million UK households are now in fuel poverty. The crisis is fuelling many types of unsafe and dangerous coping strategies in the home as millions try and adjust to record high bills.

“This worrying research indicates tampering with energy meters is now on the rise and while the motives, scale and the impact of related injuries or incidents is still largely unknown, it’s right to warn people of the risks.

“Meter tampering can be exceptionally dangerous and in extreme incidents can be life threatening – not only to the perpetrators but also nearby neighbours.”

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