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Energy market regulator Ofgem is considering a proposal for an energy theft amnesty, whereby UK residents – including property professionals, landlords and tenants – can own up (risk free) to breaking the law by stealing energy through a tampered meter.
Energy theft can often be committed by rogue landlords or tenants, and it injures or kills at least one person every fortnight in the UK.
During the ‘Energy Theft Amnesty’ period, energy thieves would neither be prosecuted, fined nor back-billed and would simply ‘get away with it’, as opposed to the usual sentence of up to five years in prison.
According to a poll of 1,000 people by UK-wide energy theft investigation companies, Echo Managed Services and Grosvenor Services Group, over half of UK residents would be in favour of an energy theft amnesty.
When provided basic information regarding energy theft and asked their opinion on the matter, an average of 58 per cent of people stated they would be in favour of the process. However, figures varied significantly across different age demographics; 81 per cent of 25-34 year-olds believed that an amnesty should take place, in comparison to just 36 per cent of those aged 65 and over.
Following this, respondents were made aware of some of the pros of an amnesty such as reducing the life-threatening danger to personal and public safety through making meters safe, alongside reducing the £20 that tampered meters add to every household bill each year. Various cons were also explained, such as those who had previously broken the law by tampering with their meter ‘getting away with it’ and not having to pay back what they have stolen.
When given these additional details and asked their opinion again, the total number of those in favour dropped to 52 per cent – with similar variance across age brackets.
Lloyd Birkhead, managing director of Grosvenor Services Group, said: ‘There are some important issues to be highlighted here. The research suggests that many UK residents are not just uninformed about the potentially life-threatening consequences and financial implications of energy theft, but that many still do not perceive them as high-risk.
‘Even when survey respondents were informed of the risks, there was still not an overwhelming majority in favour of an amnesty despite the very real dangers the practice presents to communities.’