British energy market regulator Ofgem said strict practices were being implemented with energy suppliers to ban forced installations of prepayment meters (PPM). All UK energy suppliers have signed up for this new rule.
Prepayment meters allow customers to pay for gas and electricity on a pay-as-you-go basis. The hike in energy prices has put households in energy debt as the bills are too high. Suppliers obtained court warrants to forcefully install PPM in the houses of those behind on bill payments. As per government reports, More than 94,000 prepayment meters were installed in homes in Britain using warrants and without customer consent in 2022. British Gas, Scottish Power, and OVO Energy accounted for 70 percent of the installations.
A report by The Times showed that the practice put vulnerable citizens at risk if they did not pay for their heating. The new code bans forced installations of PPMs for those aged eighty-five and above or people who are severely ill. Moreover, suppliers must contact a customer a minimum of ten times and conduct a welfare visit before the installation is done.
"If and when involuntary PPMs are used, it must be as a last resort, and customers in vulnerable situations will be given the extra care and consideration they deserve," said Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem.
Furthermore, the rules state that during the installation, the lead representative of the installation must wear an audio or body camera, which will be audited. The supplier will also give credit on each meter to ensure customers don’t lose supply.
"It’s now up to suppliers to follow the rules and for Ofgem to crack down quickly on any sign of bad practice," said Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem, stressed the need to balance debt management and protect vulnerable citizens. Ofgem also said it would consult on incorporating the voluntary code into suppliers’ licenses to make it legally enforceable.
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