Money Wellness
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calendar icon14 Sep 2023

Energy companies banned from forcibility fitting prepayment meters

Ofgem has announced that energy suppliers will no longer be allowed to forcibly fit prepayment meters into the homes of vulnerable people.

The regulator tightened its rules for the involuntary installation of prepayment meters (PPMs) in June this year but have now made it official to ensure people, such as those over 75 years old or with children under two, are better protected.

The review was carried out following an undercover report by The Times which found British Gas allegedly forcibly fitting and remotely switching on PPMs.

Ofgem has asked energy suppliers to now go away and review all their recent forced installations and consider reversing them, as well as compensating any customers found to be affected.

While the energy companies undertake this review, Ofgem is going to look at what further measures are needed to protect vulnerable households.

Currently, there’s no suppliers fitting PPMs.

What are prepaid meters?

A prepayment meter means a customer must pay in advance for their energy by topping up a meter with a smart card, ‘key’ or cash token.

If you have a prepayment meter, you’ll need to buy credit for your meter from a top-up point – usually a local shop of Post Office.

If you have a disability or health condition that makes it difficult for you to reach, work or top up a prepayment meter, you shouldn’t move to prepayment.

Under the Energy Price Guarantee introduced in July 2023, people on prepayment meters don’t pay more for their energy than those on standard payment plans. However, their standing charge might be higher. This means that your overall bill won’t be cheaper if you use lower-than-average amounts of energy.

Who will the changes protect?

The changes provide protection for the following groups of people:

  • Those age over 75 and have no other support in the house
  • Families with children aged under two
  • Those who have health issues and require a continue energy supply
  • Households where someone has a sever health issue including terminal illnesses or those with a medical dependency on a warm home
  • People who don’t have the ability to top up their meter due to physical or mental incapacity

What do energy companies have to do to comply with the changes?

Energy companies must:

  • Make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer before it installs a meter
  • Carry out a welfare visit beforehand
  • Reassess the case once the customer has repaid debts owed and contact them to assess whether a prepayment meter remains suitable

Ofgem is also making sure all energy company employees conducting home visits wear either an audio or body camera to ensure vulnerable people are greater protected.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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