electricity meters

Many people are bypassing electricity meters to get free electricity. Image by pickpik

Joburg: Bypassed prepaid electricity meters back to post-paid

City Power has caught a large number of people enjoying free, stolen electricity by bypassing their electricity meters.

electricity meters

Many people are bypassing electricity meters to get free electricity. Image by pickpik

The City of Johannesburg’s power utility, City Power, has converted over 10 000 ‘non-vending’ smart prepaid electricity meters back to post-paid meters. This after catching a large number of people with smart prepaid meters stealing electricity by bypassing the meters.

Wealthy areas at the forefront

City Power said that most of these (more than) 10 000 meters were in affluent areas and properties belonging to businesses, as reported by Business Tech.

Because these meters had been non-vending for over three months, the city became suspicious and decided to investigate the matter. They discovered that the meters had been bypassed. Subsequently, those ‘using’ the meters were enjoying a life with free electricity. The city is continuing its investigation and will convert more of these meters.

“The decision to convert all these non-purchasing customers’ meters follows a routine inspection that exposed prepaid meters that have not been vending for a period of three months and above. City Power has spent millions of rands in installing smart meters across Johannesburg and deplores this behaviour from customers who are sitting with non-vending meters only so that they can enjoy free electricity.”

The City of Johannesburg

Impacts of bypassing electricity meters

Tampering with an electricity meter to bypass it has a bigger impact than most people may be aware of.

Firstly, it may cause network overload and subsequently prolonged outages, affecting many people. The electricity meter tampering may lead to the circuit malfunctioning in the area.

Secondly, it ultimately interferes with the city’s ability to provide stable power and collect revenue. As a whole, City Power is sitting with around R10 billion in debt from non-paying customers.

Lastly, a circuit malfunction caused by this tampering, could lead to power surges which in turn could result in electrical equipment shocking people. In the worst cases, it can lead to fires and serious (even fatal) injuries.

Offenders could face criminal charges

Electricity meter tampering constitutes fraud and may result in criminal charges being filed against the offending customers. Meter tampering includes any act that results in the breaking of a seal, opening, adjustment or removal of a meter, bypassing a meter, opening of a meter box, or interfering with the meter or municipal wiring, piping or any other installation in any manner whatsoever.

Categories of meter tampering include bypassed meters, connection through stolen meters, meters bought illegally from electrical contractors or technicians, and illegally connected meters.

The City of Johannesburg loses millions of rands every year through illegal electricity connections, including meter tampering.

At the end of last year, the Emfuleni Local Municipality issued fines of R20 000 per bypass. The offenders also had to pay for any infrastructure damages.

The problem of people bypassing electricity meters is a big and persistent one. Fortunately, with smart electricity meters, the IT system can instantly pick up when people tamper with electrical boxes or bypass meters and therefore authorities can take quick action.