Energy Suppliers ‘Too Quick to Insist on Prepay Meters’
June 19, 2018
Suppliers of electricity and gas are too frequently insisting on installing prepayment meters in the homes of indebted customers, according the industry regulator.
Ofgem has revealed that 84,000 prepayment meters were installed across the UK last year on the basis of warrants and as a means to recovering debts from households nationwide.
Fewer people are seeing their energy supplies disconnected as a result of leaving their bills unpaid but Ofgem still wants to see a reduction in the number of people having prepayment meters forced upon them by energy suppliers.
The regulator has said it would rather that indebted energy customers were given the chance to engage with a repayment plan and the organisation says energy companies should be doing more to ensure that option is available to cash-strapped consumers.
According to Ofgem’s figures, there were 3,000 more prepayment meters installed under warrant last year than over the course of 2016.
A trio of energy suppliers, namely Utility Warehouse, British Gas and Ovo Energy, were singled out by the regulator as being responsible for a disproportionately high number of prepayment meter installations last year.
Hopes are that forced installations of prepayment meters will fall in number over the course of 2018, with Ofgem having introduced rules that prevent them from being imposed on the most vulnerable of people.
Energy suppliers are also now obliged by industry rules to identify customers who are most at risk of falling behind on their payments and to help those who are already in arrears to engage with affordable repayment plans wherever possible.
“We’re pleased that suppliers have almost stopped disconnecting customers who struggle to pay bills but they could do much more,” said Rob Salter-Church, interim executive director of consumers and markets at Ofgem.
“Some suppliers are very frequently using force to recover debt. Instead, they need to identify struggling customers and support them in paying money back as our rules require.
“Installing meters under warrant to recover debt must be an absolute last resort. Protecting vulnerable customers is a non-negotiable.”
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