Hidden among the millions of honest business owners there are, unfortunately, a few who think they shouldn’t have to pay for the commercial gas and electricity they use. Last year, we told the BBC how more than £400 million-worth of energy is stolen each year in the UK. We estimate this fraud adds at least £20 per year to the bills of paying customers like you.
Luckily, our Revenue Protection Unit is on the case. We’ve been helping other energy suppliers detect gas theft for almost a decade. And in an average year, we detect 80% of all gas theft that is identified in the UK.
Just, two of our Revenue Protection Officers helped to catch out and shut down a pizza shop that had taken more than £10,000 of energy. Even worse, the owner was potentially putting lives at risk in order to save money.
Detection and inspection
Following a report by an anonymous whistleblower, our officers arrived at the pizzeria to see if the tip-off had any weight behind it. The shop at first refused to let them in. But at the suggestion of police involvement, the officers were soon allowed in to read the meter.
After checking the meter, the officers concluded that it had indeed been tampered with: the security seal had been removed and replaced with a fake one. Their findings were met with denial, but the officers didn’t have to look very far to confirm their suspicions. The original, broken seal was lying nearby on the cellar floor, and the energy customer quickly admitted fault.
Despite the nearby evidence, they still refused to pay for the gas – which totalled an estimated £10,575. The officers reported the tampering to the customer’s supplier, and the pizza shop was disconnected.
Danger of explosion
When the officers returned that evening, they were surprised to find the disconnected pizzeria open again and selling its usual doughy goods. The two officers called the police and went back to the cellar. There they found a Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinder connected illegally, putting the pizza shop, its customers and the flats above in serious danger.
Our officers removed the dangerous gas source and called the National Grid to disconnect the pizzeria’s supplies from the street. The customer was later arrested and served with a restriction order from the local Fire Safety Officer, and the pizza shop remains closed while the investigations continue.
This pizzeria is just one of many cases of energy theft in the UK. What started as a simple case of illicit gas use could well have escalated into the loss of human life. Many people don’t realise that tampering with their meters or substituting a legal source with a homemade one is seriously risky.
What would you do if a dishonest neighbour added pounds to your energy bills or put other people at risk? Leave your comments below.