- Do I have the right to have my “smart” meter changed for an analog meter?
- Is this legal? Will I be arrested? Will my electricity be cut off?
- How can I have it changed for an analog?
- How can I find an electrician to help me?
- How can I protect myself against charges of tampering?
___________________________________ BACK TO FAQ INDEX
First read this section on other ways to get a “smart” meter removed from your home. Then read these posts about what has happened to some people who have been open with PG&E about changing their own meter.
Also, please view this video which details at length how to go about the changing process, and here is a site that offers a kit to help you do so.
Q: Do I have the right to have my “smart” meter changed for an analog meter?
Stop Smart Meters! asserts that you have the basic legal right to safety and health in your home. Read about the opt out now in place for PG&E customers (Feb 2012.) PG&E and other utilities claim that only they can change your meter. Nonetheless, for PG&E customers, the change back to an analog may be scheduled for months away, and for someone adversely affected by their smart meter, this may be too late. For ratepayers in other states, where there is no option to refuse, they may have no other recourse than to effect this change themselves.
Basically, there is the law and then there is utility company policy. The law states that if someone or something is on your property (whether you rent or own) and you don’t want them (or it) there, you have a right to get that person-or that device- off your property. The utility’s easement typically only covers maintenance and access to read your meter, NOT installation of a communications device on the side of your home. The utility messed up when it failed to ask permission, and now they are suffering a predictable backlash against their arrogant policy of “implied consent.” The utility is NOT the government (despite what they may think)- they are a private party bound by local, state, and federal law. They can respond to you refusing access for smart meter installation or having your meter swapped out in several ways. They may threaten you with jail, service disconnection, or fines, but they are bluffing! They cannot have you arrested unless they can prove you were trying to defraud them by tampering. They cannot disconnect the service of a paying customer according to state utilities code. They can only charge you more if your state PUC allows them to do so, and this is typically a lengthy process. So ignore their threats, stand your ground, and have that analog put back in its rightful place- on the side of your home! Then lock it up!
Q: Is this legal? Will I be arrested? Will my electricity be cut off?
We aren’t qualified to give you legal advice, but we can tell you what we’ve heard about. We know that no one so far has been arrested for changing their meter back to an analog. When during December 2011 PG&E cut off several customers’ electricity for changing their own meters, bad press quickly brought them to heel, and those customers got their lights switched back on in a week. Electricians tell us that making upgrades to a homeowner’s electrical system can sometimes entail a meter change. PG&E says you must contact them first before making this change.
Pay your bills and/or send them money to cover estimated bills for the period in question, based on your bills/usage in previous years, same month. Don’t allow the utility to cut you off for non-payment!
People who have had meters changed in California have sometimes ended up with the utility sending out a meter reader, and then they pay ahead by a number of months (to avoid charge of nonpayment, which IS grounds for being cut off) or send in a photo of their meter’s reading at an agreed-on date to the utility. Sometimes the utility accepts this, and sometimes they fight the person, threatening disconnection and/or legal charges such as meter tampering. Such charges have not been filed so far, and such a charge would entail proving the customer had intent to defraud the utility or steal electricity.
We know people who have made such a change, and results have varied. These are people in good standing with their utilities, people who pay their bill. This woman in SoCal, for instance: http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=5783 . She was threatened with the police and with disconnection—a traumatic and frightening threat to have to endure—but this has not happened (late Sept 2011). It would be a PR nightmare for a utility if they followed through with something like that. StopSmartMeters.org would certainly help publicize any such threats or actions, as we did for this woman. Here is a collection of posts about this.
There are issues that people have run into in the process. The “smart” meter belongs to the utility, so people changing a meter have had to decide how to keep the SM safe and make it right with their utility. One person said he thought he would send it back certified insured mail.
Also, there have been issues with the different readings on the two different meters. One woman had to pay a high bill one month, but it came down next month, and she just lumped it. People have documented every step of their process (photo, video), so they can protect themselves from any bogus charges of tampering for the purposes of electricity-theft. These people are not thieves or criminals and have tried every alternative working with the utility or state agencies to protect their health before taking this step.
If you decide to have an analog re-installed, we do recommend that you secure that meter from tampering or trespass. There are some ideas here. Every bit of your electrical system on the home side of the meter belongs to you, as well as (of course) the surrounding walls and the air. You have a right to tell anyone (besides a cop with a warrant) to leave the premises and they must comply or they are guilty of trespassing.
Q: Can I change it myself for an analog?
Q: How can I find an electrician to help me?
Asking friends or neighbors for recommendations is a start. Calling electricians in your community is another route.
Q: How can I find an analog meter?
Most electricians know which electrical supply stores carry analog meters. People have found them online by searching. Currently, because so many analogs have been removed, there are many fully functioning analog meters around. You can call order quality analog meters from Real Goods. See this post. Protect it with one of these ideas.
Q: How can I protect myself against charges of tampering?
Although we are not legal experts, it seems that the charge of “tampering” means you have to have had intent to defraud your utility or steal electricity. That is not your intent, and so it seems to us a charge of “tampering” would be difficult for them to prove from your behavior, as long as you are methodical. That said, you may want to seek legal advice.
Document your repeated requests to your utility for an analog meter. Document your illness from the “smart” meter. Show that you have made every attempt to go through the legal means to relieve your distress. Preserve anything that belongs to the utility carefully. If they take you to court or charge you fines, we will publish an account and publicize your story to the best of our abilities.
But so far, no one has been charged with a crime for changing a meter, nor fined, though threats and intimidation seem to be utility standard procedure. Here is one woman’s still-evolving story. Here’s a collection of posts on the matter.