Smart Meters Fiasco

So, I eventually took the plunge and went smart. As both my previous energy suppliers Utility Point and Symbio went bust and their replacements EDF and EON Next were pushing SMETS2 smart meters, I took the opportunity to convert.

As my electricity and gas are provided by different companies going smart was a bit dumb – each supplier had to arrange its own visit. I also had been told I’d need two independent smart meters, but as the electricity was done first, at least the gas could piggyback on the electric meter’s communications module.

Both installers were good, COVID regulations compliant, and seemed to know what they were doing. The electricity meter proved problematical as my electric meter is in a pretty much mobile coverage not spot, but at the third attempt the installer managed to get it communicating with their network. The gas installer discovered that the last time anyone had done anything with my meter (almost certainly the UK Power Networks guy who replaced a faulty regulator last year) they’d damaged the test valve, so I’d been leaking gas at a low rate for several months. Luckily the test valve is part of the meter, so has now been replaced.

So all good so far, but . . .

The information management side of the installation is pathetically bad. The EON Next installer left a small in-room monitor “SmartView2”. This shows the meter reading, rate of usage and very limited daily use stats. There’s no facility at all to download the data to process it on a computer and analyse usage and use it to make savings etc. Given that the devices are all ZigBee – essentially an open standard – this is an opportunity missed. But it gets worse . . .

The EDF gas meter installer did use the comms module previously fitted, so that’s good. But he was unsure about the in-room monitor. He thought that the EON Next monitor should work, but couldn’t say for sure. The best he could do was to leave the monitor supposedly communicating and expect me to see if in time it worked. Given that the alternative was to clutter my home with yet another small power-using device, I opted for that. He left saying that it should be connected within half an hour.

Not surprisingly, the gas usage monitoring features of the (not-so)SmartView2 were still dumb several hours later. So I called the number for support on the back page of the user guide the EON Next installer had left for the monitor. After half an hour on hold I got to speak to someone. Oh no, he said, you’re not our customer – we’re EON and you’re EON Next! At least he gave me the correct number, but a shame that EON Next leave a user guide with incorrect contact details. After another 20 minutes or so of being on hold, I spoke to an agent at EON Next. He assured me that there was no way their SmartView2 could display the details of the EDF gas usage. I wanted to be precise, so I dictated a statement to him that would be my record of the conversation “The EON Next supplied SmartView2 device does not support readings for EDF supplied gas meter even these are communicated via the EON Next supplied communications module which EDF have confirmed are being correctly reported to the central network.” He tried to insist that wasn’t what he was saying, but couldn’t point to any part that was inaccurate. So he backtracked on his “no” and said he’d seek the correct answer from another agent who actually knew. To be fair to the guy at EON Next, he did call back after about half an hour and confirm that I could not get gas readings shown on the SmartView2.

Of course, I then called EDF to ask why I’d been misinformed. After the inevitable menu desperately trying to get me to not call them and the apology that surprisingly they’re taking longer than usual to answer calls and another 20 minutes of dire on-hold noises, I spoke to a lady. She said that the monitor should work as that was the point of the SMETS2 systems. If I waited then the system would start to work. She rather undermined her credibility by first saying I’d need to wait 24 hours and then later saying I’d need to wait 14 days. I guess we’ll see. 

A possible chink of light was that when I looked at the SmartView2 the next day it was displaying a screen saying I had a message and a gas symbol was attached to the message. Its user interface is so bad that there’s no simple way of actually reading the message from that screen, but persevering though its menu structure I did succeed in reading it – it was a welcome from EDF! This contradicts the statement from EON Next that it couldn’t display anything to do with the gas meter. I still can’t get the monitor to display any gas information, though. And yes, I have restarted the device.

So now, I’m waiting 14 days before following up. Unless, of course, it starts displaying gas information, but I’m not holding my breath.

Using a UK mobile in USA

I thought I’d document my recent experience of getting a local SIM for my mobile phone for use in the USA whilst on holiday.

Best Buy – a US clone of Curry’s – offer a range of SIM only options. The SIMs ranged from 1$ up to about 10$ with no obvious difference. I went with the Total Wireless “Bring Your Own Phone” CDMA SIM Kit which was fine for  an iPhone 8. It cost $1+tax = $1.06 in Massachusetts.  I went on-line using wi-fi to add an unlimited voice/texts and 5GB data package lasting 1 month. This cost $38.42 and would have been a bit cheaper if I’d opted for auto-renew, but that sounded like a recipe for being charged when I forgot to cancel, so I didn’t.

It gave me a fully working phone on the Verizon network for under £30 for a month. I didn’t check the actual usage, but used the phone extensively for three and a half weeks without any problems.

The only glitch was having to list a US address and phone number, but I see no reason why you couldn’t just give a hotel or friend’s details – they didn’t get used or checked against the card used to pay. Actually getting the data to work involved a call to their customer service, and then sort of ignoring their printed instructions, but this didn’t take long.

NHS prescriptions jobsworthery.

I really don’t understand the thinking behind the NHS in practice stopping doctors prescribing more than one month’s pills in one go. Now I don’t pay for prescriptions, I’ve no financial incentive in wanting this changed, but this week my local pharmacist did make me wonder.

I have a regular prescription for statins which not even a more healthy weight and lifestyle has been able to reduce the recommendation for. It’s been unchanged at a low dose for some years now and every year I get a set of blood tests to check. So every four weeks I get a box of 28 pills.

There’s a branch of Boots in my village – one pharmacist and one shop assistant, so not a large branch. Boots the corporate parent pushes their we’ll get repeat prescriptions and text you when they’re ready service. It’s convenient, as I walk past the chemist several times a week. The only problem is that they can’t cope.

So yesterday, after yet another failure to notify me that a prescription was ready, I complained. The pharmacist explained that they get 300 prescriptions a day and just can’t keep up, as they can’t send the text (which they effectively do manually) until they’ve prepared and checked the prescription.

So, assuming a good proportion of that 300 prescriptions per day are repeats and constant over a significant period, why not do them 2 or 3 monthly and cut the workload – and frankly the cost to the NHS in admin overhead, which is probably higher than the actual cost of cheap generic statin pills.

When I did pay for prescriptions, I did complain to the GP, who referred me to the regional health authority who bounced the responsibility back to the GP. maybe I’ll have another go.

Santander send wrong letter giving wrong advice.

£20 compensation for stupid banking – from Santander, which makes a change from Lloyds. And, I may say so, a much better experience than with Lloyds. They managed to send me a letter that was in all respects wrong and told me to fix this on online banking by following a series of steps that ended in an entirely function free page. To quote their digital complaints specialist – “I’ll be writing this up to improve the customer experience since yours was, to be honest, terrible.”

What happened was that a few months ago a banner appeared in my statement telling me I’d get 5% cash back if I bought a train ticket on The Trainline. This isn’t a supplier I’d typically use for train tickets since they charge an exorbitant booking fee, but for 5% cash back, I’ll be their customer for the day. So I bought the ticket and got another statement flash to say that I’d got £6.86 cash back. Then today, I got a letter telling me off for crediting the cash back to the credit card account I closed over a year ago. It generously told me that it had this time paid it into the current account (my only account, the one for which the statement advised me of the offer and of its success), but also that I should change the account retailer offers were paid into. Unfortunately those instructions ended in a page that told me I could select the account, but gave me no way of doing so.

The digital complaints specialist was competent in working through their website and suggested I follow another process to correct their (clearly broken) record of my data. That unfortunately ended up in freezing my session on their website. But starting again seemed to confirm that it had worked. And finally, after thanking him for explaining, I said that it shouldn’t really take 40 mins of my time following incorrect instructions in an incorrect letter, so he offered £20.

Is South Western Railway better than South West Trains

Too early to say. Delay Repay with a 15minute threshold for compensation is definitely an improvement, as is direct payments into my bank account. But, within only a few months of operation they’ve got so that other enquiries get a “Our Customer Service Centre is experiencing extremely high volumes of correspondence and on average responses are taking longer than normal. … Please be assured we will respond to you as quickly as possible and we manage cases in date order.” response after their promised response time of 15 days.

Now their Delay Repay website won’t let me log in. It complains that my email address isn’t known. Clearly rubbish as that’s cached on the browser. I’ve reported it, but let’s see if it gets fixed.

And curiously, a completely random £3.66 payment turned up in my account from them today – not from Pingit, as previous SWR delay repay refunds have been but from SWR and unrelated to the non-delay repay claim I have outstanding and with no covering email. Bizarre!