A CAMPAIGN of resistance is being waged by residents of three Tottenham streets against Thames Water’s installation of controversial smart water meters.
Defiant householders in Argyle Road, Vicarage Road and Sutherland Road complain the meters, which wirelessly record and transmit how much water a home uses, are effectively surveillance devices – a claim the utility company strongly refutes.
The campaigners claim there has been a lack of public consultation with Thames Water failing to inform customers that smart meters are not compulsory – and they accuse the company of selling its customers a “pig in a poke”.
Work to dig up pavements and install the meters has been held up by the residents’ determined stand with Stop – Do Not Fit A Water Meter posters displayed in the windows of many of their homes.
Thames Water is rolling out smart meters to all Haringey homes as well as across London and the Thames Valley – a region where demand for water outstrips supply.
It says metered users consume 12 per cent less than households paying a fixed rate charge and claim it’s fairer as householders pay for what they use and are provided with the opportunity to monitor use and thereby reduce bills.
But the Tottenham campaigners complain they are being denied a choice as to whether they want to remain on a standard fixed rate, or opt for an analogue meter instead. “Thames Water has no legislative powers to compel customers to accept a smart meter,” said Argyle Road resident and campaign spokesman Andy Cronin.
“They are banking on people’s ignorance.
“We have had no consultation and sending out letters notifying people work is starting is not considered consultation.”
Mr Cronin said that risks associated with smart meters included higher bills for some households, privacy violations, collection of customers’ data and the potential security threat from data being hacked.
“Those are material facts which should be disclosed to customers in a public consultation before they give their informed consent,” he added.
Campaigners are also demanding that Haringey Council, which issues the highways permits to Thames Water for the work, fulfils what they say are statutory responsibilities by enforcing consumer protection legislation relating to the smart water product as well as the inadequate consultation.
Thames Water insists that smart meters are not surveillance devices and do not collect any information other than how much water a customer uses.
These, it said, were sent to its “secure database using robust encryption”.
“Talking to our customers about what we’re doing and why is very important to us and we’ve found face-to-face conversations to be most effective,” said a spokesman.
“In Haringey, we’ve so far managed to speak to more than 70 per cent of customers in this way and we’ll keep trying to reach the rest.
“Installing smart water meters is a big part of our long-term plan to address the water supply and demand gap forecasted for London,” he added. “
The biggest benefit to customers will be that it puts them more in control of their water use and we help them to adjust over the next two years. It also means we can detect more leaks, which we fix for free, to also save water.”