F.A.Q.

Radio teleswitch (RTS) shutdown sunset FAQ

  • 26 January 2021
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Radio teleswitch (RTS) shutdown sunset FAQ
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The sun is setting on RTS meters

 

As you may know, some big changes are coming which affect old electric meters that use Radio Teleswitches. Here’s some helpful FAQs about what’s happening.

 

What is the Radio Teleswitch System?

 

The Radio Teleswitch System (or RTS for short) is a system that was created to help with the control and management of electricity meters that had special tariffs such as Economy 7 prior to the existence of smart meters. It has a few features that are seen in smart meters today, such as remotely switching between Day or Night rates and automatically turning heating/hot water on or off, but does not have the ability to collect meter readings.

 

As a fun fact: The same signals and frequencies also get used for the BBC Radio 4 longwave service, and the three transmitters have enough power to blast the signals across the entire country at once.

 

What is a Radio Teleswitch Meter?

 

These are legacy meter types that may be known as Radio Teleswitch Meters (RTS Meter) or Dynamically Teleswitched Meter (DTS Meter), however they both work in a similar way. Alongside the electricity meter itself, a Radio Teleswitch device would also be installed and it’s this device which picks up the RTS signals and controls the time switching features on the meter.

 

So are they smart meters?

 

Well… Sort of… But not quite. The signal was only ever one-way and had no way for meters to send any kind of replies, while current smart meters can do two-way links. But you could say that they were a really early form of smart meter! :wink:

 

What are DTS/RTS Meters used for and why would I have one?

 

These meters were mainly used for special tariffs such as Economy 7/Economy 10, HeatWise, WarmWise, Total Heat Total Control and Weathercall. The purpose was to allow entire groups of meters to be switched in one go based on the appropriate tariffs. It also had the ability to be used for certain emergency scenarios as well. They were not used for single-rate tariffs.

 

What kind of tariffs were these meters installed for?

 

OVO has never offered or supported any legacy RTS/DTS Tariffs, but other suppliers have done so in the past. A full list is hard to locate, but here’s a few examples of known tariffs:

  • Economy 7 (only if a smart meter isn’t installed)
  • Economy 10 (only if a smart meter isn’t installed)
  • Total Heat Total Control
  • Weathercall
  • HeatWise
  • WarmWise
  • Storage Heat Control
  • White Meter
  • Superdeal
  • Flexiheat
  • Comfort Plus
  • Comfort Plus Control
  • Twin Heat

 

These tariffs sound like good deals, so why doesn’t OVO offer them?

 

Well… Here’s the thing… They’re all legacy tariffs and RTS/DTS Meters are all legacy meter types which are no longer installed. On top of that, the RTS service is actually shutting down by the end of December 2023 and this would make it impossible to provide such tariffs without smart meters being used. Most of them are also not exactly great value for money either…

 

It’s also worth noting that almost all such tariffs are closed to new customers (except Economy 7 which is definitely not going away!) and the suppliers which previously installed RTS/DTS Meters are ending support for them soon anyway.

 

These meters are also on life support at this point, since the BBC has been trying to shutdown the BBC Radio 4 Longwave service since 2014!

 

I’ve got an RTS/DTS Meter at the moment and it’s working fine. So what’s the problem?

 

All of these meters are legacy types which are no longer installed by any supplier today. The shutdown of the RTS service would mean that the teleswitching features would completely stop working, which could leave your electricity meter jammed on the last rate it was on before the signal died, prevent your heating/hot water from turning on properly or leave the heating/hot water jammed on 24/7. In addition, many of these legacy meters are reaching end of life and the certifications are about to expire due to age. When this happens, suppliers are required to replace the meter as part of the terms of their licenses.

 

And I’m not sure I’d want to turn my flat into a block of ice!

 

But I don’t want a smart meter and I’ve already made it clear that I wanted to opt-out! Can I have a non-smart meter instead? And why is my supplier not respecting my request?

 

I’m really sorry to say that this probably won’t be an option. Stocks of traditional non-smart meters have all but dried up and when any electric or gas meter reaches end of life, it has to be replaced. This applies equally to all smart and non-smart meters alike.

 

Due to the rules that suppliers have to follow, suppliers are only allowed to “override and bypass” a smart meter opt-out request in specific circumstances. They cannot bypass just because they want to try and meet targets or boost their stats. However, attempting to force an upgrade due to a meter fault, for safety reasons, end of life meters, expired certifications or for accuracy reasons are considered valid cases to bypass opt-outs.

 

Opting out mainly tells suppliers to avoid prompting you to upgrade to smart meters without a very good and valid reason and it is part of your consumer rights. Making sure that your meters are safe and your billing is correct can be a valid reason to bypass opt-outs, but they have to justify doing so.

 

Why is my supplier telling me I need to get a smart meter upgrade, even though I’ve told them I’m not interested and have opted-out and my RTS/DTS Meter is working fine?

 

Most likely it’s for a reason similar to the above. Opt-outs can be bypassed with a valid reason and the fact that the RTS service is shutting down can be considered a valid reason to bypass this. Your supplier is most likely acting in your best interests and they’ve also got no choice in these circumstances. If you don’t get a legacy DTS/RTS Meter upgraded, the meter will stop working properly once the RTS service has been shut down.

 

Energy suppliers have a duty of care towards their customers and this also covers making sure any appliances or equipment that is controlled by an energy meter in some way are able to operate as intended. If you’ve got an RTS/DTS Meter and your supplier didn't make arrangements for an upgrade, they could be seen as acting negligently when your house turns into a block of ice during a cold spell because the heating didn’t come on.

 

Please be advised that this isn’t happening due to any targets or incentives that suppliers get for upgrading to smart meters. The RTS shutdown really is a genuine problem that has had suppliers worried for several years and they’re scrambling to try and solve it before it becomes any more of a nightmare!

 

I’m no longer with the supplier that originally gave me the meter and I don’t have that kind of tariff anymore. What can I do?

 

The good news is that your current supplier will be happy to sort you out and they’ll be in touch at some point. While OVO never did offer legacy tariffs or meters that relied on RTS/DTS, other suppliers did so back in the day. All suppliers have a duty of care to help customers migrate over to smart meters, and this includes OVO. Your current supplier will know if you’re affected and they’ll be best placed to assist.

 

What will happen if I don’t get my meter replaced/upgraded?

 

Impending doom is sure to follow and there’ll be no way to escape your fate! And you really don’t want to be trapped in a temple of doom with a 500 stone boulder chasing after you…

 

What will actually happen is that your meter will stop working properly and it may mess up your bills pretty badly. If your heating and hot water are also controlled via RTS, it’s very likely that your house will turn into The North Pole or Sahara Desert… Not sure which one I’d prefer myself to be honest…

 

Hold up! I’ve got Economy 7 and I’m with OVO?! What do I do?

 

Firstly, please don’t panic, OVO has considered this possibility. Economy 7 tariffs are fully supported by all suppliers which provide them, including OVO and there’s no plans to change that. If you’ve got a smart meter in Economy 7 mode, you’re good to go and the RTS shutdown won’t affect you.

 

However, if you are on Economy 7 or Economy 10 with any supplier and don’t have a smart meter, now might be a good time to consider getting a meter upgrade.

 

I’ve got one of these legacy meters, but I moved to a single-rate tariff. Does this still affect me?

 

Kind of. The good news is that it won’t hit you as hard, but you would still be affected to a degree. I’d recommend upgrading to a smart meter anyway to make sure your current meter doesn’t come back to haunt you later. Given that the meter is probably reaching end of life anyway and the certification is probably going to expire soon, my advice would be to say that you are affected.

 

As a bonus, ripping out that old meter might even let you get rid of that second MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number) and drop your bills a bit, since you’d only pay one Standing Charge in the future. There’s no benefit to having two MPANs in these circumstances anyway and keeping it as-is will just burn a bigger hole in your wallet. :wink:

 

What will happen to my tariff?

 

Good question! Your tariff will be set free into the wild where it can relax and enjoy the luxury of retirement, safely looked after by the best hospitality in the jungle… Meanwhile, a Dungeoneer will cast some magic that summons a much younger and more modern tariff to take its place, just for you.

 

Spellcasting! R E F R E S H

 

Or I wish I could say that! The exact answer will depend on your circumstances. If you’re on Economy 7 for example, you can probably just get a smart meter upgrade and continue to enjoy Economy 7/Economy 10 as you do now, since it’s fully supported by all smart meters. Likewise, if you’re on a single-rate tariff, it’s a very simple case of swapping out the meter.

 

However, if you’re on one of the other legacy tariffs… Yeah… That’s probably going to cause you some problems . I strongly recommend talking to your supplier about your options, or consider switching to a new supplier - you can sometimes get better deals by switching anyway.

 

Just a heads up though. Once you switch away from a legacy tariff, you won’t be able to get it back. Please make sure to choose your options carefully. Or as Treguard used to say…

The only way is onwards… There is no turning back.

 

I heard that upgrading to a smart meter is a nightmare and really expensive? Help!

 

This is a tricky one and I will admit that an FAQ like this can’t cover all possible cases. But we’d love to offer advice though! Feel free to post on this forum and we’ll see what we can do. You don’t need to be an OVO member to ask for help here (plus we’re friendly and don’t bite. We promise!). :sunglasses:

 

I’ve got another question that’s not covered? I’m still confused and need more help! Where can I go?

 

Right here! These forums are the perfect place for getting help and advice like this, and we’d be more than happy to help you out. Feel free to create a new topic on the forums or reply to an existing one that’s similar and we’ll swoop into action.


12 replies

So, for someone with an RTS setup  with two meters on say, a “Total Heat Total Control” tariff, which provides lower cost electricity for heating (space & water) at various times of the day _and_ the same lower cost electricity for some direct heating (e.g. panel heaters & showers) 24x7, how will this be replicated in the smart meter world?

Thanks

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Hiya @AG17 !

Good question there. I don't have the authoritative answer as such, but my understanding is that THTC type tariffs will cease to exist post shutdown. Unfortunately, you can't remain on any legacy RTS Meter or RTS reliant tariffs because the meter will stop working properly.

In most cases, the best alternative for the time being would be Economy 7, since Time of Use tariffs would not work very well for your use case. 

Userlevel 6

Welcome @AG17 - and thanks for asking a great question!

 

Not sure who your current supplier is but if you’re with SSE you might want to check out this relevant thread -

 

 

The possible Smart meter replacement would depend on your exact setup so it might be best to contact your supplier to establish your options. 

@Blastoise186 - thanks for your reply. Can you please advise why you think that THTC type tariffs will cease to exist post RTS shutdown - do you have any source? I would have thought this type of tariff, and more complex ones, would become more widespread! A simple economy 7 tariff would not be a realistic replacement for the current THTC-type tariffs, with their three circuits.

 

@Jess_OVO  - I have seen that page before, thanks. I have done a little research and found this which may be of interest:

https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/files/docs/Policies/Smart%20Meters/TheFutureofRTSFebruary2020.pdf

It seems a 5-terminal smart meter is required to replace the legacy meter + RTS controlled contactor, but (as of just over a year ago) these were relatively rare.

The industry will have its work cut out to replace all the c1.4 million RTS installations in the next two years!

 

 

 

 

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Hiya!

Thanks for getting back to us @AG17 . I can try to answer these ones too.

When it comes to the future availability of THTC, I don’t have any sources myself, but I can confirm that SSE is pulling the plug on THTC outright. Given that other suppliers that offered similar tariffs are also pulling the plug and these tariffs were removed from the live market some time ago, it’s unlikely that they’ll be making a comeback. They were indeed widespread 30 years ago, but have been slowly disappearing over the last 10 years.

I’m afraid there’s no tariff on the market today from any supplier that I know of which offers similar service to THTC. One of the biggest nightmares of that tariff was that it was very much anti-competitive and made it nearly impossible to switch supplier because of the massively limited support for the meters used. The current tariffs and meters used by suppliers these days are far more flexible and inter-compatible with each other, which avoids that headache. You might be able to get Economy 10 though, which may work better than Economy 7 in some use cases. Technically speaking, Smart Meters can do Economy 10.

The government actually wants to step away from weird complex tariffs in order to make life easier and there’s a lot of controversy towards those tariffs continuing to exist.

5-Terminal SMETS2 Smart Meters were a bit rare a while ago, but have become more common now. As far as I’m aware, OVO does have full support for them now and does have the ability to fit them. This is the best option you can go for to replace an RTS Meter.

Replacing 1.4 million meters in two years might sound like hard work, but when spread across all suppliers it’s actually not as bad as you might think. :)

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Ah ha, found something! I read this ages ago but didn’t think to note it down

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/2014/11/understanding_the_customer_experience_of_dts_meters_and_tariffs_final_version_0.pdf

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/82288/state-market-customers-dynamically-teleswitched-meters.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/cma-cases/energy-market-investigation

Thanks - that’s interesting.

I engaged with Ofgem years before they wrote that report over the difficulty DTS customers had with switching, plus the competitive advantage it gave to suppliers like “Scottish Hydro”, who enjoyed a largely captive, high usage customer base, that they didn’t have to put any effort into retaining.

It’s a shame Ofgem have done almost nothing to promote competition in this area, despite the report!

It’s interesting that the Ofgem report from November 2014 estimates 550,000 DTS customers, whereas UK Energy estimate 1.4million MPANs in February 2020 - of course many DTS customers will have two MPANs, but the implication is that the number of DTS customers has not dropped markedly.

Whilst replacing 1.4m meters may be achievable, it seems to me the industry hasn’t done anything that I can find to propose replacement tariffs for DTS customers - even Economy 10 doesn’t meet the requirement (it only replaces two of the three “THTC” type circuits) - and there is potential for significant detriment to many customers, which I can’t see Ofgem tolerating.

 

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Definitely true there!

But the ultimate problem is that the meters required to support these kinds of tariffs will. stop working properly once the RTS Signal is gone, since none of them have any local timeswitches to provide redundancy.

As for the three circuits… I personally think that keeping that kind of setup just creates even more nightmares than it solves. It’s unlikely that there will be any Six-Terminal SMETS2 Smart Meters, so unfortunately THTC style Three-Circuit setups will have to go in the bin.

I have also seen forum threads and other content elsewhere today which were very, very scathing towards THTC, ComfortPlus Control, Weathercall and similar tariffs. Some even say that these tariffs are bad value for money. Unfortunately, I can’t link any of those here because the content isn’t appropriate to link to.

While Economy 7 or Economy 10 with a smart meter might sound worse off, it’s worth noting that migrating means zapping that second MPAN. Not only does this nuke the second standing charge, but it also makes switching suppliers far easier. I’m also unable to say whether the 1.4 million MPANs filters out the dual-MPANs properly, so it could actually be 700,000 customers rather than 1.4 million. It also isn’t clear whether it factors in extremely weird edge cases with three meters and three MPANs…

Suppliers are no longer allowed to hold customers to ransom like this however, but getting customers migrated is a bigger challenge.

Let me see if @Tim_OVO can call on a new friend of ours though, he happens to know someone who’s an expert on similar matters… :)

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@Blastoise186 - thanks for your reply. Can you please advise why you think that THTC type tariffs will cease to exist post RTS shutdown - do you have any source? I would have thought this type of tariff, and more complex ones, would become more widespread! A simple economy 7 tariff would not be a realistic replacement for the current THTC-type tariffs, with their three circuits.

 

 

There’s more information about the ending of the THTC tariff on the SSE website, @AG17.

If you have more questions about how this will affect your supply and the options you have in terms of meter replacement I would really advise giving them a call on 0345 071 7972. The options available will be dependent on the area you live in and the exact set-up you currently have.

 

It might also be worth contacting an electrician or citizens advice for impartial advice about the best option going forward. SSE have advised that they will be reaching out to all customers with RTS meters to let them know that this meter option will be phased out by 2023 and customers will have the choice to decide which tariff option will be most suitable to their needs at this point.

 

Obviously the benefit of having a more standard set-up will allow for more choice in terms of supplier and the option to upgrade to a smart meter. Would be interested to hear how you get on and whether SSE are able to offer more clarity to your exact situation... 

I actually think the main problem is replacing the tariffs, not replacing the meters - smart meters which replicate the RTS functionality are available today, but there are (apparently) no tariffs! Whilst removing the second MPAN does indeed remove the second standing charge, that can easily be wiped out by higher electricity costs for high users.

Three circuit setups cannot “just go in the bin” if the industry has no proposed replacement which is not detrimental to consumers.

 

Jess - I’m not a customer of SSE - but that website doesn’t give more information - it just says they are ending and SSE will be in touch with its customers…! I have written to my supplier. I’ll report back what they say and maybe contact Ofgem for their take.

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Unfortunately, there are no plans to do Six-Terminal Smart Meters anyway, which means doing three-circuit setups will be impossible. It's also less of a case of supporting these tariffs either. Just about all suppliers pulled the plug on legacy RTS Tariffs several years ago. The only reason they still exist at all is because existing customers on such tariffs were grandfathered into the system. You can no longer sign up for any and I think it was maybe 2015 onwards that some suppliers began having cold feet about offering them. OVO has definitely never done any except Economy 7!

They were always horrible value for money and I've seen many cases of people desperate to escape the pitfall traps and wanting to get onto less complex tariffs. 

Ultimately, the only winners with legacy tariffs are the suppliers that still keep them around under a grandfather rule. The market has changed, it's time to move on. 

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Jess - I’m not a customer of SSE - but that website doesn’t give more information - it just says they are ending and SSE will be in touch with its customers…! I have written to my supplier. I’ll report back what they say and maybe contact Ofgem for their take.

 

Sorry for the confusion there, @AG17. We were under the impression that the THTC tariff was only offered by SSE (formerly known as Scottish Hydro) but are happy to stand corrected.

 

Which other supplier also offers this tariff? We’d also be interested to hear the proposed alternatives that your current supplier offers, don’t forget to update us with how you get on..

 

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