Energy regulator Ofgem wants gas suppliers to pay money into an industry-wide pot to cover the cost of fighting gas theft, a problem that has cost consumers 138 million pounds per year since 2009, the watchdog said on Monday.
Suppliers are expected to implement all changes proposed by the regulator by the end of 2013 and could face a fine if they are found not to comply with the rules.
Gas theft usually refers to consumers not paying for gas they use by tampering with supply systems to bypass their meters and has cost each household around 6 pounds a year over the past three years, Ofgem said, citing a group of industry experts.
We want to see suppliers take more action to reduce gas theft, which threatens the safety of consumers and industry workers as well making gas more expensive, Andrew Wright, Ofgem's senior partner for markets, said.
Under the proposals, gas suppliers should pay money into a joint pot relative to the number of sites they supply and will be rewarded in proportion to the number of thefts identified in their segments.
Each supplier will have a target number of thefts to detect within a one-year period.
Ofgem initially proposed to exclude Britain's largest gas supplier, British Gas, from the scheme, because the company's techniques to tackle gas theft are more advanced than those of other firms.
The current proposal would prevent other suppliers from being hit due to the better performance of British Gas, Ofgem said.
Proposals also include setting up a central service shared by all suppliers to define and tackle gas theft.
Suppliers can pool information about when it would be feasible to investigate whether gas use is correctly recorded.
Ofgem has the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their turnover, but a spokeswoman said this would be an unlikely consequence of failing gas theft obligations.
Ofgem's proposals are open for consultation until April 30.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps, editing by Jane Baird)