Energy regulator Ofgem has granted EDF, Octopus and Scottish Power permission to resume involuntary prepayment metre (PPM) installations.
In February 2023, UK energy suppliers collectively agreed to halt the forced installation of PPMs into vulnerable households following a call from the then energy security secretary Grant Shapps for an investigation into the potential exploitation of these households.
The call to investigate the matter was spurred by research emerging at the time which revealed that households were being left without electricity during winter. In January 2023 new research by Citizens Advice found that 3.2 million PPM customers were cut off from their energy supply in 2022 for being unable to top up their PPM, due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Of these 3.2 million, 19% spent a minimum of 24 hours without both gas and electricity, the charity continued.
In light of this, Ofgem confirmed that from 8 November 2023, the Code of Practice for PPMs, which had hitherto been voluntary will be mandatory.
This will mean that, before forcibly installing PPMs, suppliers will need to carry out a number of measures including attempting to contact a customer at least ten times and conduct a welfare.
Before permitting EDF, Octopus and Scottish Power to restart involuntary PPM installations, Ofgem confirmed that each supplier had met the regulator’s PPM conditions, adding that if these rules are broken suppliers will “face tough action and fines.”
Discussing Ofgem’s reasoning for restarting involuntary PPM installations, Tim Jarvis, director general for markets at Ofgem said: “While nobody wants to see the practices uncovered last year repeated, we also know that allowing households to build up unsustainable amounts of debt isn’t the right thing to do either.”
“We will continue to work closely with consumer groups and suppliers to make sure households understand their rights when it comes to prepayment meters, and will regularly review our rules to make sure they are working to protect the most vulnerable,” added Jarvis.
“I’d also strongly encourage consumers to make sure their personal details and circumstances are up to date with their supplier, so they can be taken into consideration if or when payment problems arise.”