French homeowner wins case over smart water meter installed in absence

The woman had asked for information but the company simply installed the meter instead

The court found that authorities were justified in wanting to replace the meter, but not justified in entering and installing the device without permission. (Photo for illustration only and does not show a French smart water meter)

A homeowner in south-west France has won her case after she lodged a complaint about the installation of a smart water meter at her property without her consent and in her absence.

The court in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne, Occitanie) found the Eau de Toulouse Métropole group to be in the wrong after an agent entered the woman’s property in the town of Cornebarrieu to install a smart water meter while she was not at home, on October 4, 2022.

She only realised when a letter, dated more than a week later on October 12, arrived to inform her of the installation. The woman later lodged a formal complaint.

The court found that Eau de Toulouse was justified in wanting to replace the property’s obsolete water meter but that it was not justified in entering her property and installing the device without permission.

It was ordered to pay the woman €400, plus damages and interest.

Smart water meters send usage data directly to the supplier, and do not require the user to send regular meter readings.

Read also: Smart water meters to be introduced to more areas in France 
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Since a decree from March 6, 2017, it has been a requirement that obsolete, existing water meters must be replaced. However, the new devices cannot be installed without consent from the property owner, and especially if they are absent at the time.

The woman said that prior to the incident, she had contacted local authorities via her Service Public account to ask for clarification about how the smart water meters work, and the personal data that they collect.

“I was asked to make an appointment for someone to come and inspect my meter,” she told France 3 Occitanie. “I immediately replied to this request via my customer area [on the Service Public website]. I was promised further information but I never received any.”

She said that water management company Veolia, on behalf of Eau de Toulouse Métropole, then simply installed a new meter without her knowledge.

Veolia has now admitted that it made “an error” in installing the meter in this way.

Read also: ‘Check your water meter’: couple’s €2,700 bill for leak at French home 

The meters are the property of the Toulouse Métropole, and must remain accessible and readable after they are installed. 

People who refuse the installation, which is now mandatory, risk penalisation. Of the 167,761 new meters installed in the Métropole area, 173 people have so far opposed the change.