Can I refuse to have a Linky electricity meter?
I have been reading some worrying comments about the new Linky electricity meters (overcharging, health hazards…) and really do not know what to think. Some mayors have refused to have them installed in their villages, others accept. Do we have any say in the matter?
It is not surprising you are confused as there are conflicting views on these new meters which are intended to allow the energy companies to monitor your use at a distance. You will find some websites by opponents who urge people to refuse them and other views stating that you may not refuse.
Objections include fears about electromagnetic waves and use of personal data, there have also been some reports of units malfunctioning.
The reality would seem to be that if your meter is inside your home it is possible to refuse to have a visit to change it if you feel very strongly about it, but it is not without risks, including you possibly being charged extra and in the long-term you may have no choice about it.
According to Enedis, in charge of the national electricity network, Linky meters are the ‘new generation’, the previous ones dating back to the 1990s or before. The state has agreed they should be rolled out and it is expected that a total of 35 million meters will be replaced by 2021. A calendar of the planned roll-out can be found here: http://www.enedis.fr/linky-bientot-chez-vous
Enedis says benefits include the fact that no one has to come out to read the meter, you can monitor your energy use in a personal space on their website, and they can quickly detect power cuts so as to solve problems rapidly. Also in the case of a sudden power surge in the network the meter cuts off, protecting your electrical appliances, Enedis says. The firm denys that having a Linky installed will increase your bill, saying the installation costs nothing and the Linky counts your energy use in exactly the same way as the old generation models and your contract remains the same.
As for whether accepting a Linky is obligatory, Enedis states that “It is indispensable and subject to legal rules and you therefore cannot refuse replacement [of your old meter]”. It adds: “In the case of persistent obstruction to having your meter changed, you will be charged for a ‘special reading’ at least once a year.” Enedis says “communes cannot forbid the roll-out on their territories”.
Leading consumer body UFC Que-Choisir says that anyone who signed an electricity contract since 2016 also signed up to the latest general rules on use of the public electricity distribution network of which Enedis has a monopoly. These include the right for Enedis to bill you extra for having to make manual meter readings and even potentially to cut you off from using the network on grounds of not allowing them to update your material to current norms.
UFC says in theory those whose contracts predate this could refuse and cancel their contract – but ‘in reality this[right] is very limited’ especially as there is no alternative network provider and if you cannot access the network you have no electricity…
What is more if one day your ordinary meter breaks down, it will be replaced by a Linky whether you want one or not, it says.
UFC Que Choisir says mairies do not have legal power to ban Linkys on their territories and a vote against them is largely ‘symbolic’.
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As for possible health risks from waves, national health and safety body Anses made a study which concluded in 2016 that there was ‘little likelihood that being exposed to electromagnetic waves from communicating meters, in the current configuration, causes health effects in the short or long term’. Other studies are ongoing.
UFC-Que Choisir also states that use of data to monitor your habits is limited due to rules imposed by Cnil, the national data watchdog.
It adds there is so far no evidence, apart from in a few isolated, publicised cases, that installing a Linky will generally cause an increase in your bill.
Having said which, the body says it did not in general, favour the roll-out, considering that on the whole it mostly benefits the energy providers rather than the individual.
A major energy comparison company Selectra, takes the view that you can refuse if you insist, and are willing to risk extra manual reading charges. It recommends writing to Enedis to state your refusal, as early as possible, bearing in mind the planned calendar and if possible before you receive a letter warning of the intention to install one (these are sent at the latest one month before the planned installation). However it reports that Enedis told them that people could refuse during the roll-out period (ie. until 2021) and keep their existing meter, but it would be an obligation after that.
If you wish to do it, Selectra recommends you should send Enedis a recorded delivery letter, keeping a copy of what you sent to them.
Certain opponents to the meters however insist the risks are minimal because there will be no fines or regular extra charges and they say that to be cut off in France is ‘fortunately extremely complex’ and ‘improbable’.