Energy thieves are costing the UK hundreds of millions of pounds every year, effectively raising the cost of your business’s electricity and gas.
According to Crimestoppers, there are as many as 3,300 cases of gas theft each year. And it’s up to our officers to stop those thieves from endangering the lives of their neighbours and customers.
Twenty years of unpaid bills
Just last month, our officers helped to shut down a busy restaurant on the South Coast that had been siphoning gas for more than 20 years.
The first clue came when our Revenue Protection Unit officer noticed an alarmingly low level of consumption from a suspiciously large property. Upon arrival, she found that the gas meter had been boxed in, leaving just a small peep-hole for reading the numbers.
Removing the obstruction, she immediately realised that the whole meter had been disconnected, despite the property’s 14 gas radiators and many in-use appliances.
When she questioned the owner, he insisted that they only use electric appliances, since ‘gas appliances made my wife nervous’. Of course, his story fell apart when we pointed out several gas appliances that were clearly in use, and a further investigation revealed that an illegal bypass had been installed.
To make matters worse, it soon became apparent that the consumer was also the owner of two adjacent restaurants, which were known to be busy tourist hotspots during the summer.
As it turned out, the illegal bypass installed on the gas meter had been providing unbilled energy as far back as 1994. This left the owner with an assessment in excess of £163,800 of back-dated gas bills!
The vigilant RPU officer made a call to the National Grid, who immediately disconnected the supplies to all three properties, leaving both restaurants unable to continue trading.
The owner eventually admitted to the theft, and the police are currently making their own investigations.
The double cost of energy theft
Cases like these show just how much bill-skippers can drain from their suppliers, and just how much they’re adding on to the bills of honest customers.
But it’s not just about costs: there’s a very real danger when people start fiddling with their gas and electricity equipment.
‘Energy theft poses a major safety risk to the public’, said Mark Andrews, our own Head of Revenue Protection. ‘Stealing gas and electricity is extremely dangerous. It’s potentially a ticking time-bomb. Tampering with meters, wires and pipes can cause electric shocks or even major gas explosions.’
‘The problem is not isolated to any particular town or city. That’s why we have a highly trained network of British Gas operatives working across the country every day.’