Is It Legal to Remove a ‘Smart’ Electric Meter and Replace It With an Analog Meter You Purchased?

By David Sheldon*

July 15th, 2015 Update: The outrageous decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals in the Stenman case (discussed elsewhere on this site in detail) means that, at least until that decision is successfully appealed, or the legislature passes a new law, the law regards the “smart meter” as a lawful meter and the utility customer can have his or her electrical power shut off for refusal to permit its installation, or for resorting to self help in removing a smart meter already installed. It is still possible to challenge the applicability of this law to your self under some conditions. Bear in mind this will not be an easy course. You will be regarded initially as having at least violated the terms on which customers can have electrical service. If you removed a smart meter you may also be accused of “meter tampering.” Either way your power will likely be shut off. You will then have the choice of either giving in to a smart meter installation or the burden of suing the utility to get your power restored. You will then likely be required by a trial court  to either prove that you suffered actual (not hypothetical) damage from either a privacy invasion or from the health effects of a smart meter. These are not things that many customers will be in any position to prove or that any customer should have to prove If you cannot make these proofs your only chance will be to appeal your case all the way up to the Michigan Supreme Court and try to get the doctrine laid down in the Stenman case reversed. In the meanwhile we continue to work for legislation that would reform all this.

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 First we must acknowledge that DTE or Consumers ‘smart’ electrical meters, and the question of whether they may be refused or removed by the customer, present a novel situation for which there is no clear or simple answer that may be found in a statute or in the workings of the courts to date. So far there have been 2 test cases of this very issue in the Oakland County Circuit Court. One judge ruled against DTE. The other judge ruled for DTE. Both cases are now on hold pending appeals to the Michigan Court of Appeals. However there are some controlling legal principles that can give us a pretty good idea how the courts will eventually rule.

1) The common law right of any private property owner (residence or business) to control access to his property and to bring a civil tort action for trespass against anyone entering property or taking actions while on the property without permission. This right applies except to the extent the property owner has given an easement or right of access to a utility. But utilities such as DTE or Consumers must be acting within the terms of their easement in order to be exempt from a trespass action.

2) The right of access all Michigan utility customers give utilities, as a condition of receiving electrical service, the right to install a “meter”, to read that “meter” and to inspect it, repair it or replace it as the utility deems necessary. The utility installs a “meter”, which remains the property of the utility, that plugs into the customer’s meter socket. There is a regulation of the Michigan Public Utilities Commission (MPSC) that a customer must give this right of access as a condition for receiving electrical service. There is also an MPSC regulation that permits a utility to shutoff power if denied this access.

3) The word “meter” has a precise legal meaning – both in state law and in the regulations of the MPSC. Both the law and the regulations mentioned above define an electric meter as “a device that measures the integral of the electric power consumed over a time interval (kilowatt hours)”. A utility, therefore, cannot honestly claim that it is merely exercising the rights of access that are a condition for receiving service when it is installing a device which goes way outside the definition established by law. The lawful definition of meter does not include a radio-transmitting device or a surveillance device or a device by which a utility may remotely turn off power to a home or business. A utility is likewise not exercising the rights provided to it by MPSC regulations when it installs in your meter socket a device which actually is a relay station by which the utility can monitor individual appliances within a home or send commands to turn off those individual appliances.

4) The “smart meter” device DTEand Consumers Energy are installing on millions of homes and businesses does not meet the definition of meter. Accordingly we believe that DTE and Consumers Energy do not have a right of access to install such a device on a private home or business. For it to do so without explicit approval from property owners constitutes trespass and we believe could be subject to a civil lawsuit seeking money damages and/or an injunction to prohibit the illegal conduct.

5) The statute that created the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) charged that commission with the responsibility to assure safe delivery of electric power to the public. In the face of enormous evidence from scientists all over the world that smart meters damage the health of the public, the MPSC has so far refused to exercise its responsibility to conduct hearings and take evidence concerning these health complaints.

6) There is also a felony surveillance law passed by the legislature that prohibits the attaching of a “surveillance device” to any home without the homeowner’s knowledge and consent. The term “surveillance” is very broadly defined so that it would clearly encompass tracking detailed electrical activities within the home. There is no exception in this law that would exclude utilities from its scope. The National Institute of Science and Technology has issued a privacy report in which it has labeled smart meters as surveillance devices. The head of the CIA has publicly stated that the government will use smart meters to spy on people. Yet we see no example of any prosecutor bringing felony charges against DTE or its employees for doing precisely what the law forbids.

7) In order for DTE to be able to make the ‘smart’ meter device a condition of service, they would need the MPSC to revise existing regulations that specify what the conditions of service are. The MPSC would have to expand the definition of ‘meter’ so as to encompass the functions of a smart meter. Revising these regulations necessarily must follow the Administrative Procedure Act of 1969, which in turn gives a joint committee of the State House and Senate the power to veto any proposed regulation. The MPSC has not made any effort to get such revised regulations on the books. Instead it has taken the illegal course of declaring that it “will not interfere with a utility’s business practices”, in direct violation of its own charter.

8) In order for DTE to make the ‘smart’ meter device a condition of service, they would also need to persuade the legislature to modify the existing felony surveillance law so that it does not apply to utilities. And they would need to persuade the legislature that there is no need for the MPSC to conduct any hearings on the health issues of the new meters.

9) Even if the MPSC were to change both the surveillance law and the definition of ‘meter’ (with the acquiescence of the joint legislative committee) the new definition would be subject to challenge on Fourth Amendment grounds. Recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court make it clear that if a government agent were to attach a ‘smart’ meter to a private home without consent and without a valid search warrant, the high court would view that as a Fourth Amendment violation. In order to apply the Fourth Amendment to the actions of a privately owned utility we must show that the utility is a “state actor” because its actions, specifically with regard to smart meters, are being orchestrated by both the federal and state governments, both of whom will have access to the data these meters collect. Federal and state governments are effectively doing an end run around the warrant requirement of the Amendment by having a private monopoly utility do their dirty work.

10) A regulated public utility in Michigan may not arbitrarily deny service to a customer, except for cause recognized in duly promulgated regulations of the MPSC. Where the utility cuts off power to a customer solely for refusal to accept a “smart meter”, the utility has become an outlaw because the regulations do not empower it to make a smart meter a condition of service. In this situation the customer would have a civil lawsuit for “denial of service” and could seek as damages whatever costs have been sustained by the failure of the utility to provide service as required by law. The customer could also seek a court injunction commanding the utility to restore service.

11) When a utility seeks to force upon its customers installation of a device to be attached to their homes and businesses that is NOT a “meter” as that term is defined in law, and which IS a ‘surveillance device” as that term is defined in law, the utility has violated the terms of service which was laid down by state law and by the MPSC through its duly promulgated regulations. The utility has become an outlaw. The question then becomes this: If the utility will not obey the terms of service established by lawful process, and the agency charged with regulating them will not enforce those terms of service, and prosecutors will not prosecute under the state’s felony surveillance law, what options then remain to the utility customer?

(a) Seek redress by filing a civil suit seeking an injunction to prohibit the illegal conduct complained of.

(b) Defend his or her home in the meanwhile by revoking the utility’s free access to replace the existing analog meter.

(c) In the case where an illegal device has already been installed by the utility, remove the offending device and replace it with a lawful meter.

As noted in the beginning of this article, we are faced with a novel situation where the law is far from clear.  We already have 2 test cases in the circuit courts, one of those on appeal, and will no doubt need to bring other test cases before the law finally becomes settled.  We currently have 5 smart meter cases from the Public Service Commission pending before the Michigan Court of Appeals.

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* The author is not an attorney but has represented himself successfully in a number of cases in federal and state courts. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of his own attorney before choosing a course of action.

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28 thoughts on “Is It Legal to Remove a ‘Smart’ Electric Meter and Replace It With an Analog Meter You Purchased?

  1. I keep reading about all the dangers of these meters, but unfortunately, I’m not reading any solid, good advice of what we can actually do about this. I told consumers energy that we want this meter off our house, was told I could opt out (with fees of course), I told them I want to make sure they are reinstalling an analog meter in it’s place, that we will not accept a digital meter. They told me I have two choices, a smart meter or a non transmitting digital meter. I have gone around and around with them, explaining all the health issues my husband and I have experienced over the past year, but as you can guess, they could care less.. It’s like take it or leave it with these people.. I asked them what would happen if I purchase an analog meter and have an electrician install it. The answer I got was, we cannot provide you with an analog meter. They will not give a straight answer. We’re about ready to figure out how to live off the grid. This is insane. These meters are making people sick and no one from these companies care.. Is there anything we can do without ending up in a legal nightmare battle? We’re senior citizens and just simply want to live in peace.. We are both shocked and appalled by a company with such little regard for human life.

    • There are many others who are shocked and appalled at what Consumers Energy and DTE are doing to their customers. Many of us are also shocked and appalled at the failure of Michigan’s Attorney General to stop this insanity, as at least a dozen laws are being violated. And we are shocked and appalled at the failure of our courts to render just verdicts when lawsuits and appeals were brought. If you install your own meter they will cutoff your power. Going off grid would appear to be your only option at the moment – at least until we can get our meter choice legislation (HB 4220) passed. Right now it is stuck in the House Energy Committee, where many of the committee members seem tone deaf to what is going on.

    • Go to Freedomtaker.com and follow the advice to send legal letters to your utility. They are breaking the law. They only speak the language of money/liability. Flood them with letters of liability. Another great resource is Take Back Your Power. I was also sickened by a smart meter and had to move out for a while. We followed the process in Freedomtaker.com and replaced our meter ourselves. It is an act of self-defense. I strongly recommend you do this as it worked for us.

  2. can i charge the electric company a fee for keeping there meter on my property, i mean its the same as say parking one of there trucks on my driveway for free. don`t i have the right to charge them for using my driveway. so if they don`t want to pay me then put the meter off my property

    • Michael, you have a point. If they want to put a radio transmitter on your home to relay signals from other homes they should pay for that. If they want to put a surveillance device to collect your private information for sale to 3rd parties, they should pay for that. The only thing they have a right to put on your home without paying you is a simple meter that keeps track of how much of their product you have consumed.

  3. I had no idea what DTE was putting on the side ofmy house. Now the last Two months my electric bill has gone up about one hundred dollars a month. I contacted DTE about the problem they said they would send someone out to check the meter. I started looking online and found out exactly what was going on,nothing more than a huge scam.I just called DTE to find out what they found out about my meter and bill.Just as I expected nothing was wrong with my meter. I got angry and told them i wanted that thing off my house by friday.I was told they would but i had to agree to a charge.i told them i would not pay the charge and was told they would not remove it without me agreeing.i told her if they did not remove it by friday i would remove it myself!now i don’t know what to do to stop these predators from preying on me and my family.i don’t understand how they can charge an opt out charge when i had no options to begin with,DTE owns the area my house is in.

  4. ok here is my problem….my dte bill has gone up over 300% after the smart meter was installed. How do I check the amount of electricty I am using? I CAN NOT READ THE SMART METER….I CAN READ MY WATER METER,IT STILL HAS DIALS, I CAN READ MY GAS METER, IT STILL HAS DIALS……WHY CAN I NOT READ MY ELECTRIC METER???? THAT ALONE SHOULD BE ILLEGAL YES? YOU PUT A METER ON MY HOUSE THAT I HAVE NO WAY OF CHECKING HOW MUCH ELECTIRCITY I AM USING? Has any one checked into the Tesla Power Wall system?

    • Mike, (1) You can learn to read a smart meter. It is much harder than reading your own analog meter but it can be done. The Itron smart meters used by DTE and Consumers Energy flash 3 different numbers in rotation. One of the numbers is your meter number and simply identifies your account. One of the numbers is a status display that might show error codes at times. The third number is your reading – the cumulative kilowatt hours you have used – ACCORDING TO THE SMART METER. Just write down all 3 numbers and compare with the most recent reading on your bill. You can tell from this which is your usage reading.
      (2) Being able to read the smart meter may not solve your problem if the smart meter is not recording your usage accurately. What you really should do is buy an analog meter through the internet from Hialeah Meter Company in Florida. Then have it installed, not in place of the smart meter, but rather as a “submeter” in your basement near your circuit breaker panel. You will need to have an electrician do this for you as it means installing a meter socket and re-routing the main feeds to the circuit breaker panel through the submeter socket. Then you will have a way to check if the smart meter is giving wildly innacurate readings, which is likely from what you have said.

      • There not meters, there surveillance devices. You did just read the above right? We should all start calling them what they are, especially when posting on social sites.

        “Hey have you heard about the surveillance device(s)(smart meters) secretly installed on your home?”

        If you’re close enough to read your surveillance device, make sure you wear your EMF suit, and take pictures to post online. Heh *jokes* but seriously anything than can start virally will greatly increase speed and chance of resolving these issues.

  5. None of them “represent the public”! They may pretend to but they certainly do not. ALL have been paid off and this is far beyond the decision of the utility companies and the Public Service Commissions. This is a plan that has been worked on for many years and putting the “smart” meters on homes and businesses is the very last step. It is HUGE – mostly in the way of giving a handful of human beings POWER and CONTROL. Yes, it is also about money – but the power and control is what they want the most – they already have money. This is a monster that will not stop unless CRITICAL MASS of the people happens. I saw a movie wherein THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of people protested this technology – and after that, they took ALL the meters off! It was somewhere in Europe I believe — but not sure — just don’t recall right now. Even the police officers who were there to control the crowds joined in the protest WITH all the other people. So inspiring!

  6. I am under a doctor’s care for SMART METER exposure, I AM WILLING TO DTEP FORWARD WITH ALL THAT IS BEING CAUSED TO MY HEALTH, AND D.T.E. REFUSAL TO REPLACE WITH TRADITIONAL ANALOG. HEALTH HAS DECLINED EVEN MORE SINCE THEN. ANY CAUSE TO FIGHT THESE DANGEROUS KILLERS, COUNT.ME IN. I DON’T HAVE TRANSPORTATION, IF IT CAN BE PROVIDED ,COUNT ME IN. 734 799 6040. MY BODY CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE OF AMI POISON. COUNT ME IN! !!!!!

    • Lois, would you mind sharing the name of your doctor? My son has been suffering from a continuous migraine since October,, which came on within two months after a smart meter was installed without our consent. We are in Ann Arbor.

  7. I, and others who care, are now forced to at LEAST take the necessary precaution of shielding our walls, if not our entire homes, from the constant bombardment of EMF/RF signals.
    There are simple, inexpensive ways we can accomplish SOME of this until better options present themselves.
    I suggest to all that they research RF/EMF shielding techniques on the ‘net/utube, to protect yourselves as much as possible for the interim.
    Be safe.

    • Best way to protect yourself ,loved ones, pets ,all ANIMALS, environmental surroundings, REMOVAL OF ALL AMI SMART AND HARD-WIRED METERS. AMI IS BEING EMITTED THROUGH ALL ELECTRICAL LINES AND APPLIANCES AFTER PLUGGING THEM IN. Cook stove has electronic ignitors, can hear in my radio when I turn stove on ,ONLY since AMI was installed last MAY .

    • Aluminium foil. Some say mylar, but not so sure from videos testing the shielding with meters. You can easily build your own aluminum shield around the meter, leaving the front side open, or even using aluminum “shiny” screening, which apparently lets just enough of a weak signal out to not cause any issues.

      There is also copper paint, 100$ or so a gallon, you could paint the outsides of your home, than repaint any color over, or simply do same only in your bedroom.

      The main issues to resolve are the EMFs/RFs entering from surveillance devices(smart meters) and any dirty electricity being generated by the devices.
      Unless you are quite wealthy, and have the time or hire out, you wont be able to completely guard your home or even a single room. Think of it like this, you have a box, and any light that can shine in at any point or side, is like/how EMF’s/RF’s enter, granted your box is properly shielded by some means. Even with a small entrance point, yes you have greatly greatly reduced your exposure, but this type of light in my metaphor can bounce and fill your “box” with whatever small amount entered, unlike actually light which is direct(hits an object and is done, unless a reflective surface). So a completely shielded bedroom, windows too, any door cracks or gaps would still allow them to enter. And if you have dirty electricity, and you do all this shielding, now you are trapping a constant flow of them into your bedroom, as they only have that small gap/cracks to escape, and YOUR BODY! So you would have to shield inside walls and make sure all outlets are not in use and shielded as well. The more you learn about this, the more your head will spin and the more you will most likely feel helpless as there really isn’t much you can do besides hire electrician if possible to ground the meter, and shield your own meters. You can buy a screen kit online for $90 for a round smart meter, dunno about gas/water ones.

      I’m going to fashion a 3-5 layer aluminum foil cylinder with bottom of cylinder open where the face of the surveillance device’s(smart meter) face will be uncovered by the aluminum. I will also paint the foil my house color before installing and/or little touch up paint after installed where I seal the side of the cylinder.

      The trouble is if you have neighbors whose meters aim right into your home. Your only choice than is shield the wall of home inside or out, or talk to your neighbors. The $90 screen cage is the best I know of online and 5 sec’s to install if you can afford such. Inform your neighbors of what is happening and hopefully you can eventually shield them one way or another until we win this Battle(hence the war is probably far from over).

      Buy a meter online. $100 or so. Test your rooms, homes, and surveillance devices(smart meters), and even any neighbors which may be penetrating YOUR space and PRIVATE property.

    • I wrote the AG and got a letter telling me to go to MPSC to get information?All they did was kick the can further into the rabbit hole. The power company has ALL government in their back pocket.Now we’re left out to suffer from these devices,My ears have not stopped ringing and I can’t sleep past 3 am since these death meter have been installed!I don’t understand why we did not have a say on any of this! Just the government protecting us from us again!

  8. Hi David! I had my Smart Meter removed and replaced with an analogue meter 4 weeks ago, and it also now has a Tatar Guard on it as well. I went public with this to get people informed and am now being threatened by DTE. I got a personal call from Joe McCormick after I went very pubic with this on Thursday of last week – I recorded the convo, it’s pretty telling! How can I contact you? Thanks.

    • Andrea,

      How can I get in touch with you? A smart meter was installed on my home even thought I opted out. Would love some advice if you have a few minutes. Thanks!

    • Hi Andrea-
      What were the magic words you used to get the smart meter off your house? I tried everything short of guarding the analog meter physically pre smart meter install. I was told that’s the equipment DTE uses and that a smart meter is my only choice. Please advice. Also I would love to hear you voice recording.
      .

  9. I had no choice but to allow DTE to install a new meter. They told me that the radio transmitter has been turned off. I guess I have to believe them. I have a defibrillator implanted so the thought of no electrical service did not appeal to me. The added cost of $68 plus $10 per month is unfair but according to the attorney in the AG’s office I had no other choice. Good luck all.

    • Joseph, I hope the attorney you spoke to was NOT in the Public Service Division of the AG’s office. Their job is to represent the MPSC, which is a major cheerleader for smart grid. People should be sure to ask to speak to someone in the ENRA Division, which is supposed to be representing the interests of the public.

      • Joseph, Erickson is an Asst AG working in the ENRA Division. He represented the Attorney General at the time of the hearings on the DTE “opt-out” proposal and raised purely financial issues about the “opt-out”, totally neglecting health and privacy issues, and failed to appeal when the Commission rejected his financial arguments. He did not question the extremely limited scope of those hearings even though the Commission was defying an order of the Michigan Court of Appeals by not considering a broader range of concerns.

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