Large-scale Linky meter fraud discovered in France

Illegal tampering of boxes allowed customers to save up to 75% in electricity bills

Hundreds of property owners let their meters be adjusted by fraudsters
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Two men have been handed prison sentences for their role in promoting a Linky meter scam which helped homeowners in France illegally reduce their energy bills.

They offered a 'service' to adjust a property’s Linky meter box, providing artificially reduced readings of energy consumption which resulted in lower electricity bills.

The men charged between €1,000 and €2,500 and the service was offered to hundreds of homes and businesses, primarily in the east of France around the town of Belfort.

Besançon public prosecutor Etienne Manteaux said both the men and their customers were “perpetrators of an organised gang scam.”

A set of compositions pénales will be set up in the coming weeks for homeowners who have accepted the service. It is likely this will result in a fine.

This refers to proposed sanctions for a low-level criminal offence drawn up by the public prosecutor, which the alleged perpetrator may accept or not. If they do not then they may be summoned to court.

“I suggest people who have had this service installed contact the authorities to sort out the situation before the gendarmes come and establish the fraud,” added Mr Manteaux.

Enedis, the company which manages France’s electricity distribution, is also looking to impose its own fines on customers who allowed their Linky boxes to be tampered with.

Some customers say they were ‘scammed’

However some of those who let their boxes be adjusted say they were victims of a scam run by the men, and did not know the procedure was illegal.

This includes Pierre-Jérôme Collard, former deputy mayor of Belfort in charge of sports, who has been forced to step down from his position.

“I was offered an electronic device equivalent to a pressure-reducing valve on a water tap, which would enable me to reduce my electricity consumption,” he said in a statement.

“I was presented with an invoice, which I paid by bank transfer [from my main account] in full transparency. I am naive but not a swindler,” he added.

It is unclear whether the service was always offered as a simple measure under the guise of reducing consumption or whether customers knew it was illegal.

Read more: More about how proposed electricity cuts will work in France

Tampering with boxes is ‘security risk’

Enedis says it welcomes the “significant penal response provided by the Besançon court,” for the two men sentenced, as well as the composition pénales for complicit property owners.

A 31-year old technician was sentenced to two years’ prison (one of which is suspended, on probation) and fined €10,000. He also had certain valuable items confiscated and was barred from operating a business for 15 years.

The other man, a 46-year old business provider, who offered the service door-to-door, was sentenced to one-year (suspended, on probation) and ordered to pay Enedis back lost earnings.

Enedis added that tampering with boxes in this way goes against the company’s policy, and said it causes “additional financial costs for all customers.”

Any tampering with a box after installation presents a safety risk from fire or electrocution, states Enedis.

Enedis believes that “tens of thousands” of homes may have Linky meters which have been tampered with as this scam is not thought to be the only one.

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