On Friday my energy provider told me that I couldn’t have a smart meter because I’m blind!
Unable to read my account number from my paper bill in order to allow me to register for a smart meter on my energy provider’s website, I called their customer helpline. I was put through to the smart meter department, to whom I explained my predicament.
Initially, after putting me on hold for an age, they said that their smart meters “don’t talk”, so I’d have to wait for a talking smart meter to be developed, which was a couple of months off. I told them that I don’t want a talking meter, that I’m perfectly happy to have a standard one which removes the need to regularly read my meter, and get people to read it for me so that I can see how much energy I’m using. I was placed on hold again.
After speaking to a superior once more, the decision remained the same: “as the key feature of a smart meter is to allow you to see how much energy you are using, as you are blind and unable to use this feature we can’t give you one”. I told them that I had people who could read it to me, so I could use the feature, but the decision had been made and wasn’t to be changed.
As the only reason they had given for not allowing me to have one was because I was blind, I said that I felt that they were discriminating against me, but all they did was raise a customer complaint.
I subsequently wrote a very snotty email to their customer complaints department, setting out various action points that I needed them to undertake in order to stop me taking it further; this elicited a telephone call within 12 hours!
We had basically the same conversation again; “it’s not that we are discriminating against you because you are blind, it’s because we have a duty of care to do what’s best for you, and we think that what is best for you is to wait for a talking meter to be developed; we don’t think that giving you a standard smart meter is what is best for you”.
I told them that I detested such attitudes of companies and organisations who think that they know what is best for me; “surely I know what is best for me and what I want? What is it that makes you think you know what is best for me and my situation?” She was unable to answer this question, rather unsurprisingly!
I repeated that I had people who could read it to me; my parents call a couple of times a week, my GF does likewise, my PA picks me up and drops me off at home three times a week, and I have two children that live with me who can all read it to me if I need. The representative had to put me on hold for a while whilst she thought about this. “What we are concerned about is that because your children are 18, they may move out soon and then you won’t be able to use it again ….” I repeated the host of people that I had who could read it to me; not for the first time, the children were an irrelevance!
After 10 more minutes of toing and froing, the complaint handler eventually summed up the situation: “I think what is happening here Mr Curtis is that we are getting bogged down in what we think is best for you, and what you think is best for you. You are an adult and you sound like you are of sound mind (!), so I think it’s fair to try to see if our planning team will alter its position on this”.
This all puts the current advertising campaign into a different light!
“Homes are about to get smarter, with heating you can control on your mobile, smart meters so that you can see what you’re using … [unless you’re blind, wanting to get someone to read it to you, in which case we won’t let you have one because we don’t think you should want one!]”
As it happened, because my gas is transported by an independent gas transporter (allegedly), I can’t have a smart meter in any event due to incompatibility, but that still doesn’t lessen the way their behaviour made me feel. I’m not one for normally highlighting such treatment, but I’ve rarely been so angry and upset by such behaviour.
Perhaps they should have offered to send that flipping annoying pointless gimmick penguin round to read the meter display to me – it would have saved me a lot of time and annoyance!!