NSW, QLD, SA, Tas and ACT electricity customers allowed to have communications on ALREADY-INSTALLED smart meters TURNED OFF

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has made a final rule to allow metering coordinators to deactivate the communications on already-installed smart meters.

The AEMC’s Competition in Metering Rule, which started in December 2017, stipulates that all new and replacement meters must be an advanced ‘type 4’ meter unless a customer makes a request not to have a type 4 meter at the time a new meter is installed or if there isn’t a telecommunications network in the area to support a type 4 meter.  Type 4 meters host wireless communications that emit pulsed radiofrequency radiation in the microwave range 24/7.  In instances of customer refusal, an advanced non-communicating meter, known as a type 4A meter, is provided.  If instead a customer has an existing ‘working’ meter, and doesn’t require a new meter, opt-out provisions are available.

However, there was no provision in the rule for the meter’s communications to be deactivated if a customer moves into a house or business premise that already has a type 4 meter installed.

The final rule allows metering coordinators, at their discretion, to deactivate the remote communications in response to customer objection.  Deactivation may be achieved by a variety of means (for example, cease polling/collection, remote deactivation, or physical removal of the meter’s communication facilities).  Metering coordinators may only accept a request for deactivation if they have evidence that the retailer has advised the customer about upfront charges associated with a type 4A meter and similarities and differences between a type 4 and a type 4A meter.

The Australian Energy Council (AEC), which represents 23 major electricity businesses, requested the rule change. The AEC anticipated that their proposal would “reduce the number of complaints customers make to retailers and jurisdictional ombudsmen, therefore reducing administrative costs whilst simultaneously improving customer’s experience”.

In response, the AEMC concurred that there was a need for a process to deactivate remote communications at the lowest cost. This was in recognition of the fact that “a small cohort of customers holds strong views regarding the use of advanced meter communication at their premises, as stated in AGL and EnergyAustralia’s submissions”.

The AEMC may only make a rule if it is satisfied that the rule will, or is likely to, contribute to the achievement of the national electricity objective (NEO).  Although factors to be considered in the NEO include safety and security of supply of electricity, the AEMC’s decision was solely on the basis that allowing deactivation will lead to cost reductions in respect of customers insistent on having a non-communicating meter.  The AEC had pointed out that the costs associated with deactivation are three to five times lower than replacing the meter entirely (as well as not requiring an interruption to the customer’s supply of electricity).  Prior to this final rule, a meter swap was the only means by which customers moving into premises with an existing communicating smart meter might obtain a type 4A meter.

The final rule commences on 1 July 2019 in the jurisdictions which have adopted the National Electricity Rules (NER). These jurisdictions are NSW, QLD, SA, Tas and the ACT.

The Northern Territory has only adopted certain parts of the NER which do not include parts related to the final rule.  The Competition in Metering Rule does not currently apply in Victoria as a result of Victorian Ministerial Order.  Western Australia continues to be subject to a State-based regulatory framework.

Customers who have a type 4A meter must continue to shop around retailers, if they want to obtain the best deal and avoid being gouged for manual meter reading fees.  Although the Australian Energy Regulator sets the maximum fee for manually reading meters, there is NO obligation on retailers to charge this fee.

SSMA commends the AEC for proposing this rule and the AEMC for overseeing its formulation.  This final rule represents a step in the right direction.  However, when one takes into account safety and security of supply issues, SSMA considers that the NEO would be better served by eliminating wireless transmissions from ALL meters.   

For previous posts on this issue, see:

Residents of NSW, QLD, SA, Tas and ACT: It’s time to say NO!

Victoria delays implementation of national arrangements for metering competition

Power distributors advocate optional smart meters in Victoria – But will the Victorian Labor Government listen?

 Smart meters by stealth

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23 Responses to NSW, QLD, SA, Tas and ACT electricity customers allowed to have communications on ALREADY-INSTALLED smart meters TURNED OFF

  1. Wendy Jenkin says:

    I was unaware of any of these issues.
    I was informed by phone that my meter would be changed … I would be contacted later for time and day. There was no testing of my meter.. I was not informed of any reason this was being done.. I always watch usage by reading the meter. I want my old meter back… and feel that this was done by stealth … Only 2 weeks later already had issues… water pump not working one morning.. tv on and off.. as with other things. I have reported this to the ombudsman and will follow your advice to contact others. I live in Perth WA…

  2. Daniel Raffell says:

    Can anyone answer. We had solar put in 2 weeks ago and they told us we didn’t need one. Turns out we do and we are aware if we get one we can get the comms disabled. However it is near our heads outside the wall. Is it safe if the comms are turned off?

    • TL says:

      Daniel, read the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page. Your question is answered there.

    • Deb says:

      Turning off the comms removes the microwave transmissions. But there will still be magnetic fields from the electricity meter. The strength will depend on how much electricity is being used at the time. These fields do drop off very quickly with distance. But you certainly wouldn’t want to be sleeping near any sort of electricity meter. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re a couple of metres away, in particular your head.

  3. Maz says:

    I am having a lot of issues. After fighting with simply energy to not have a smart meter with comms ( but they insisted that if you got solar you HAD to have a smart meter, they installed one. then I argued the comms was still there. They finally took it off. Now 5 months later , no bill, no usage on their site. I told them and they went and read it.. guess what it is no registering any usage from solar to the grid, or me using their power.. I dont know whether their meter reader cannot read it, or its the wrong meter to use if a comms is removed or they didnt connect it. Watch this space. I am so sick of this

  4. Patricia Dow says:

    I am on a panel organized by my Water Supplier last Saturday the 11th May and they are going to trial one town in my area with the rolling out of digital meters. I asked about the health implications which they didn’t answer and played down the implications of smart meters……. this is the brand they will be using https://www.itron.com/aunz/

  5. pcwwp says:

    I would not feel safe unless it was removed.. Anything deactivated can be easly acivated again..
    You know in Germany they send the data via the electric wiring – this at least helps with the biological damage..

  6. Celia Cornick says:

    What is happening in Victoria?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great news. Just wish it was happening in Victoria too.

  8. krg4j says:

    I’m in WA. I am blessed to have inherited my home. It just happens to have a smart meter installed. I asked for it to be removed and I was told it was impossible, they don’t do that.

    Please, can anyone tell me how I could get my meter changed to an analogue meter?

    • Let's get real about RF says:

      Don’t take no for an answer! Perhaps you could write to the most senior manager possible with your request, explaining your reasons. Being in WA, and not subject to the regulations elsewhere, you should be able to get an analogue meter. If they don’t agree, you could ask them to provide you in writing with the reasons that ‘they don’t do that’, and take it from there. You could also always take it to the media…

    • anonymous says:

      I’m not in WA but could you possibly ask the power company to remove or switch off the communications module from the existing meter

      • krg4j says:

        Good idea. Do you know if that would stop it making those loud snapping sounds at odd hours, day or night, or flood my home with unnecessary EMF etc?

  9. Cathy says:

    How wonderful to see common sense prevailing. If only this was also the case in Victoria!!! It looks like the heartless Victorian Labor government intends to treat Victorians like second-class citizens until 2021.

  10. streetsunset@yahoo.com.au says:

    omg, sorry I dont understand….does this mean that those states can have the EMF feature turned off?

    • Let's get real about RF says:

      Yes, lucky them. Well done to all the people who complained to the electricity retailers. At least they’re paying attention to what customers want, unlike the Victorian Government.

  11. Hi- so in plain english- please explain? does that mean we can deactivate the smart meters??

  12. pcwwp says:

    What a great result ! Well done all.. BUT – they will come again- we must be vigilant..

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