Social media firms urged to crack down on dangerous tamper tutorials

13 March 2019 (Last Updated March 13th, 2019 11:20)

Social media companies have been urged to do more to eliminate ‘how to’ videos that offer dangerous advice on how people can tamper their energy meter.

Social media companies have been urged to do more to eliminate ‘how to’ videos that offer dangerous advice on how people can tamper their energy meter.

An investigation by Echo Managed Services and Grosvenor Services Group found 94,700 YouTube results under the search term ‘how to hack your energy meter’.

Such tutorials encourage people to carry out dangerous hacking practices, which cause at least one death or injury every ten days in the UK. However, almost all the tutorial videos investigated did not carry safety warnings.

Most of the videos state that their method is ‘legal’ because it does not stop the meter completely but slows it down, making it unpunishable by authorities.

However such statements are highly misleading to viewers in the UK, where any kind of meter tampering or cheating is considered illegal and can lead to five years in prison. 

“Current statistics show that 150,000 cases of energy theft are investigated annually in the UK, but only around 1,500 people are charged. We must, therefore, come together to prevent and prosecute.”

Some videos also feature comments that advertise paid-for tamper services. These online comments do not offer details of how meter cheating can put households at risk.

Echo research found that 39% of billpayers are not aware of the threat that meter tampering causes to public safety. Such billpayers can be more easily impacted by the offer of cheaper energy fees.

This analysis comes as social media companies are facing probes around the availability of harmful online content to children.

Grosvenor Services Group managing director Lloyd Birkhead said: “It’s shocking that such dangerous tutorials are allowed to exist on the world’s biggest social media platforms. They pose a real danger to society. Methods employed in these videos should never be carried out by a skilled technician, let alone an untrained member of the public.

“The promise that an individual can ‘cut [their] electricity bill in half’ is hugely enticing, particularly for those on low incomes or those looking to carry out illegal activity such as cannabis farming. However, the reality is incredibly serious and video streaming sites have a responsibility to crack down on the practice.

“Current statistics show that 150,000 cases of energy theft are investigated annually in the UK, but only around 1,500 people are charged. We must, therefore, come together to prevent and prosecute. Closer links between the government, social media companies, energy suppliers and police could improve these figures. We need to show energy thieves how seriously their actions can impact innocent lives, as well as the tough sanctions they will face when prosecuted.”