At common law, persons do not have power to interfere with highways for the purpose of laying mains or pipes. This will constitute a public nuisance and persons would be liable to private suit and proceedings on indictment. They would be liable for damages to persons thereby suffering damage or loss.
The initial legislation prohibits allowing for laying of gas pipes was associated with legislation on lighting of towns. The legislation was local and subject to adoption in various places.
The authorities under the legislation were powered to erect gas lamps, posts, and lay gas pipes or mains other than in private land. The land may be purchased by agreement under the public health acts. Urban districts or district councils could contract for lighting the streets, markets and public buildings and infrastructure such as gas pipes and mains. They also had power to contract with any person for the supply of gas in the district and could obtain powers for the benefit of such person from the Local Government Board.
Gas undertakers were under duties to supply areas within the scope of the act or order. They might be obliged to compulsory enter a contract of supply by owners or occupiers within 25 yards or the main or undertakers or such other distances may be prescribed by the special act or order.
Every owner or occupier requiring a supply of gas must serve a notice on the undertaker specifying the premises concerned. He must enter into a contract to continue to receive gas for at least three years and pay a rent not less than 20 percent of the cost incurred in providing the pipe per annum. He must also give security for payment of all sums due. It is an offence for undertakers to refuse the supply when lawfully required to do so.
Every consumer supplied by undertakers must if required by the undertakers consume gas by a duly stamped meter. It must be supplied to the owners. They may be required to give security for the payment of the price of the meter.
Undertakers have power to hire or let meters for ascertaining gas consumers. Such meters and fitting are not subject to distress for rent on the part of landlords nor to execution by sheriff.
Consumers are liable to penalties if they interfere with gas meters or did anything to the meters without giving proper notice and agreement of the undertaker. Undertakings are entitled to have access to meters and have liberty to remove them test and replace them etc.
Undertakers can provide prepayment meters. Undertakers may provide gas by way of a prepayment meter at a charge not greater than supplied for other types of the meter.
The register of a meter is prima facie evidence of the quantity of the gas consumed. If there is a difference, the matter may be referred to a court of summary jurisdiction.
Officers appointed by the gas undertaker may at reasonable times enter buildings supplied by the undertakers in order to inspect meter’s fitting and works for the supply of gas and for the purpose of ascertaining the quantity of gas used. It is an offence to interfere with an officer in making such inspection.
There are provisions in relation to pipes connecting premises to the gas mains. Undertakers may make specifications and publish them setting out the standards required. The Gas authority may inspect and ensure that the relevant works have been properly undertaken.
In some cases, the price of gas was regulated by legislation. Maximum prices were provided for. There were also provisions for capping dividends paid by the gas company
Gas undertakers may by notice require occupiers and owners of premises to give security of payment of gas charges. The former security in the event of dispute was fixed by court of summary jurisdiction.
Undertakers have powers to recover for gas charges and rents of gas equipment. They may cut-off supply. They may take proceedings before a justice for recovery by distress. They may proceed before a court of summary jurisdiction to recover the sum as a penalty or take ordinary proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Gas undertakings were given power to cut-off gas where persons had not paid rent due or other sums. The undertakers may stop the gas by entering the premises to cut-off service pipes or other means that they shall think fit. An application may be made to a court of summary jurisdiction for a warrant to recover all costs including the cost of disconnection.
If a consumer of gas leaves premises without payment, the undertakers are not entitled to require from the next tenant arrears unpaid unless the incoming tenant has undertaken with the former tenant to pay or exonerate him from such payment. It was held that the receiver is an incoming tenant for this purpose.
Some legislation, if applicable required consumers to give notice before quitting premises. The notice is to be given in writing and sent by post to the office of the company. In default of such notice, the consumer was made liable to pay money accruing in respect of the supply of the next usual accounting period for ascertaining the meter or the date for which any subsequent occupier shall require the supply of gas whichever first occurs.
In all cases where the consumer ceases to require a supplier to supply, the undertakers are authorized to remove fittings and equipment etc. They may after giving notice, enter the premises for such purposes during day hours causing as damage as may be.
The Sale of Gas Act 1859 regulates the measures to be used in the sale of gas. Where the act applied, it was administered by the Board of Trade. It provided for standard measures of gas.
Models of gasholders measuring thw relevant volumes and multiple are provided for and published. These models were metrological measures and standards by reference to which quantities of gas supplied were to be measured. Provision was made for local models. Provision was made for testing of meters and verification together with stamping by the authority. In the same way, it measures a modern legal metrology legislation.
Inspectors were appointed to verify compliance with the requisite standards. Meters were to be stamped. Unstamped meters were prohibited. Inspectors had powers to enter any premises for the purpose of testing meters. If the is meter turned out to be incorrect or fraudulent, it must be refixed at fees and penalties arose.
There were fees for stamping and verification. There was provision for margin of error. Affixing or use of a counterfeit stamp is an offence. It is an offence to tamper with a meter or obstruct an inspector.
Local authorities could appoint gas inspectors who have powers to enter premises at certain hours for the purpose of testing. Some decisions of an inspector could be referred the court of summary jurisdiction and provision to be made for re-inspection by independent inspectors from other districts.
Inspectors can be required to provide samples of quality of purity of gas of a testing. It must comply with prescribed standards.
Rules were prescribed by testing. Penalties were prescribed for breach of standard. There is pressure for which gas is provided might be tested. Undertakers were liable to counties, to be determined by justices for breach of standards.
Legislation granted special protection to the property of gas undertaker. Any person who
- made or caused to lay any pipe to communicate with the undertaker’s pipes without their consent
- fraudulently interferes with a meter,
- improperly uses or burns gas or
- supplies other persons with gas supplied to him
is liable to penalty. There was provision for conviction by a court to summary jurisdiction with provision for daily accrual of fines.
It is an offence to remove, destroy, damage any pipe with a post, plug lamp or work or fittings of the gas entity undertaker. Every person who damages any pipe or lamp belonging to an undertaker must pay for damages done sum not exceeding £5 as a court of summary jurisdiction shall think reasonable.
It is an offence wilfully, fraudulently or by culpable negligence to damage any pipe, fitting or meters of a gas undertaker.
There is a summary mechanism for obtaining compensation of it subject to sums which have not been eroded by inflation. Where a person has committed any offences, interfered with apparatus, made unlawful connection etc. he may be disconnected notwithstanding any contract.
A person employed by a company with a duty to supply gas who makes a contract of employment with the authority knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the probable consequence will be to deprive the citizens of the area concerned of gas is guilty of an offence.
Such authorities were required to were obliged to ensure Section 4 of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act was placed where it may be conveniently read by persons so employed. It must be maintained in place and not obliterated etc.
In the usual way of public authorities, authorization of works under gas legislation is a defence to nuisance necessarily caused by such works. However, undertakers might be liable in negligence for the manner in which works are undertaken or may be liable for nuisance for matters occurring outside of what is strictly provided or necessary for the works. Gas undertakers may be liable in the usual way for nuisance and negligence arising from their operation.
The Gas Work Clauses Act provide for remedies against fouling g of water and other nuisance from gas. Undertakers are liable to prosecution if they permit any stream or waters to be contaminated by products of gas. Test may be made to ascertain whether any fouling has or is occurring. Cost of the same may be recovered to any such failing is found to have taken place.
The Gas Regulation act 1928 made further provision for the stamping of gas meters. It enabled legislation to be brought in force nationally.
The Minister was empowered to prescribe forms of stamping for verification of gas meters.
Provision was made for testing of meters and requisition by gas purchaser. Provision for inspection of meters were modernized and extended.