Householders are putting their lives at risk by tampering with utility meters.
In the past 18 months almost 1,300 people attempted to alter their gas meters in a desperate bid to reduce household costs.
According to Bord Gáis Networks, 512 people have tampered with their meter so far this year. The overall figure for last year was 740, based on the number of reports of tampering received by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).
The CER figure for 2012 was markedly lower at 134 while there were just 50 reports in 2011.
Bord Gáis Networks admitted the increase in meter tampering could be attributed to the financial hardship of households across the country.
Owen Wilson, head of safety at Bord Gáis Networks, referred to the issue as a “serious public safety concern. By tampering with a meter, people are not just putting their own safety at risk, but the safety of their families, neighbours and the general public. The consequences could be costly or even fatal.”
Mr Wilson warned that anybody thinking of tampering with their meter could face a heavy fine, and urged those struggling to meet payments to contact their supplier about their payment plan.
Only representatives of Bord Gáis Networks are authorised to work on natural gas meters. It is illegal to ask, pay or allow someone else to tamper with your meter. Individuals tampering can be convicted and could face a €5,000 fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months.
Last September, Bord Gáis Networks set up a dedicated unit specifically to identify meters that have been tampered with. They also launched a nationwide safety campaign, with a particular focus on counties with a high number of confirmed cases such as Cork, Waterford, Dublin, and Kildare.
Currently, old meters are in the process of being replaced though Bord Gáis Networks say the new meters are no less at risk of being tampered with.
If you suspect meter tampering is taking place you can report it to Bord Gáis Networks on 1850 200 694 or via www.bordgaisnetworks.ie/metertampering
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