Consumers are being warned that they face stiff court penalties for tampering with the Antigua Public Utilities Authority meters.
The caution comes as residents claim two men have been offering for sale a “small metal box” designed to reduce their bill.
OBSERVER media was told that the grey box is approximately 6x6x4 inches, and at a cost of $1,500 can be installed close to their electric meters resulting in thousands of dollars of savings.
One man said the box has a green light and is riveted shut. He said the male service representative and technician claimed it could be installed immediately and the feed of energy being used by his house would be reduced significantly.
The consumer said he became concerned when he realized the maintenance-free, one time installation could not be opened with a screwdriver, Allan key or even pried open to examine the components of the box.
While the Antigua Public Utilities Authorities (APUA) said it has not received any reports of this nature, the Communications Coordinator, Floree Williams Whyte reminded residents that it is illegal to tamper with their electric meters.
“Any device that affects the way the meter operates would be considered as a way of tampering which comes with a fine, because the meter is APUA’s property,” Whyte said.
The Electronic Crimes Act of 2013 states that any person found tampering with or manipulating an electronic system or network, willfully destroy, delete or alter information residing in an electronic system or diminish its value or steal, conceal, destroy or alter it commits an offence and once convicted on an indictment, can be fined up to $500,000 and or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years.
“A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on- (i) summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $200,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both,” the law states.
Whyte noted there are ways in which consumers can reduce their consumption by practicing energy conservation methods; purchasing energy efficient appliances, switches and dimmers for lights, changing bulbs to LEDs, among other things.
“When people steal electricity it does affect us and every consumer because there is electricity being used and not paid for. It is in everybody’s best interest to make sure that people around them are not tampering, and it is also a safety issue because if it is not done correctly persons can get harmed.” She added that the incidents of electric shock and building fires are a high possibility caused by tampering.