Energy suppliers across the UK have agreed to stop forcing vulnerable households onto prepayment meters after energy security secretary Grant Shapps called for an investigation into the issue.
In late January, Shapps declared he had written to each energy supplier in a bid to prevent prepayment meters being forcibly installed at homes.
Following this intervention, the government confirmed that all energy suppliers have now committed to ending the forced installation of prepayment meters in vulnerable customers’ homes.
Prepayment meters installations had risen considerably amid the energy crisis. But due to soaring energy prices, many on prepayment meters have been unable to pay for energy and thus had their supply cut off.
Citizens Advice indicated that around 3.2 million had been affected in 2022.
“People will have understandably been shocked and appalled at how vulnerable people’s homes have been invaded and prepayment meters installed against their wishes – and suppliers are only at the beginning of correcting this abhorrent behaviour,” said Shapps.
“Since those reports were published, I have demanded answers from suppliers, and Ofgem: all suppliers are now halting forced installations, magistrates are no longer signing off warrant applications and Ofgem are upping their game when it comes to their reviews.”
Following the call to cease forced prepayment installations, Shapps swiftly called on Ofgem to “toughen up on energy suppliers” following reports of forced prepayment meter installations by British Gas.
An expose in the Times found that “even those with small children or medical conditions have not been shown forbearance” according to the government, with debt collectors breaking into homes to install prepayment meters.
British Gas admitted fault and suspended all prepayment warrant activity for the winter at least.
Shapps again reiterated his criticism of suppliers and called on Ofgem to create a plan of action to rectify the issue in the energy regulator’s upcoming review.
“I am angered by the fact some have so freely moved vulnerable customers onto prepayment meters, without a proper plan to take remedial action where there has been a breach of the rules. So, I have only received half the picture as it still doesn’t include enough action to offer redress to those who have been so appallingly treated,” said Shapps.
“This is simply not good enough and absolutely needs to be addressed by Ofgem’s review – I want to see plans from suppliers actually acted upon – and customers given the service they have a right to expect.”