Over 50% of UK residents would be in favour of an energy theft amnesty, according to a new poll of 1,000 people.
The findings come following a possible proposal by Ofgem, which revealed the potential introduction of a one-off, limited window of opportunity for UK citizens to come forward and own up to having a tampered energy meter. The meter would be made safe and no backdated charges applied.
When provided basic information regarding energy theft and asked their opinion on the matter, an average of 58% of people stated they would be in favour of the process. However, figures varied significantly across different age demographics; 81% of 25-34 year-olds believed that an amnesty should take place, in comparison to just 36% 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% – with similar variance across age brackets.
However, the research showed little variance in opinion when viewed across different household income brackets.
The research, which was carried out by UK-wide energy theft investigation companies, Echo Managed Services and Grosvenor Services Group, also questioned respondents on whether they would be in favour of a knife amnesty, such as that carried out by the government in March 2019. More than 8 in 10 (85%) people said that they were in favour of this action.
“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.
Our findings also suggest that the public is in favour of action generally, but only when it has a tangible, full and direct appreciation of the dangers at stake. The threat posed by dangerous weapons and violent crime is – rightfully – well-reported and well-understood, which helps to explain why 85% of people would approve of a knife amnesty.
The dangers of energy theft, meanwhile, are not universally understood. Clearly, the energy sector should work harder to educate communities on the potentially-fatal risks that meter tampering can present if an energy theft amnesty is to garner public support and be successful.
The regulator will undoubtedly be weighing up the benefits and drawbacks of this decision in the coming months – so it will be interesting to see whether the process is driven forward. What’s apparent is that more education must be provided across the board.”
Lloyd Birkhead, Managing Director, Grosvenor Services Group