Money Wellness
Image of a prepayment meter. Seven companies approved to recommence force fitting prepayment meters
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calendar icon18 Mar 2024

Energy firms granted permission to restart force-fitting payment meters

Energy firms granted permission to restart force-fitting payment meters

Several energy companies have been granted approval to resume force-fitting payment meters in homes. Find out of if your supplier is on the list

Ofgem has agreed to allow seven energy companies to resume fitting prepayment meters in people’s homes without permission.

E.ON. EDF, Octopus, Scottish Power, Tru Energy, Utilita and Utility Warehouse have all met Ofgem’s requirements to recommence.

The practice was paused last year following a number of complaints about providers forcing their way into the homes of vulnerable people, going against Ofgem rules.

It culminated in an undercover investigation by the Times newspaper, which exposed British Gas agents installing prepayment meters inappropriately.

Prepayment meters are fitted for households who have built up debt. They stop them from building up even more debt by making the user pay for their gas and electricity usage up front.

While the practice was paused, Ofgem drew up a set of new guidelines for suppliers to follow which provide greater protection for vulnerable households.

Under the new rules, prepayment meters should not be fitted in households where people are over 75, unless someone younger also lives there. They also shouldn’t be used in homes with children under the age of two, or in those where someone is living with a terminal illness or certain conditions, which would be made worse by living in a cold home.

Ofgem has made it clear that forcibly fitting a prepayment meter is a measure of last resort. And has warned suppliers they will face enforcement action and unlimited fines if they’re found to be breaking these rules.

What are prepayment meters?

A prepayment meter also known as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ meter can be a helpful and effective way to manage the amount a household spends on gas and electricity.

Suppliers must offer different ways for you to pay back debt – moving to a prepayment meter is just one option.

Your supplier can only install a prepayment meter to pay debt if it is safe to do so and you can easily use and access it.

How do prepayment meters work?

If you have a prepayment meter you still pay standing charges. And you will need credit to keep your energy running.

It’s important to have access to your meter. If you can’t access it, ask your provider to move it for you as it is illegal for you to move it yourself.

Moving it could incur a charge, but it is free if you’re registered with the Priority Register.

You can switch suppliers if you have a prepayment meter and if you have debt of less than £500.

If you can’t afford to top up your prepayment meter, you should contact your energy provider straight away. They must offer you support under Ofgem rules, such as extra credit if you’re in a vulnerable situation and have few options to pay or while you work out ways to pay.

You’ll need to pay back the credit from your supplier when you next top up. They must also work with you to agree a repayment plan you can afford.

Under Ofgem’s rules, you can ask for:

  • A review of your payments and debt repayments
  • Payment breaks or reductions
  • More time to pay
  • Access to hardship funds
  • Priority Service registration – a free support service for people in a vulnerable situation

What debt help is available if you can’t afford your bills?

If you can’t afford to pay for energy, you’re not alone - 70% of the people we help each month are in energy debt. We provide free debt advice and can help you find a solution that’s right for your individual circumstances.

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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