The number of “forcibly installed” prepayment meters (PPMs) has risen in the last few years, according to Ofgem.
They were highest in 2013 when more than 111,000 PPMs were installed – 55,243 electricity meters and 55,898 gas meters, a spokesperson told ELN.
Energy suppliers can get a warrant to install PPMs if customers fail to pay their bills and run up debt.
The regulator said it is looking into “reasons behind the increase in the number of PPMs installed for non-payment of debt on a warrant visit”. It is also reviewing if suppliers are communicating with customers prior to installing the meters and whether they are following the rules or not.
ELN was told there have been no evidence that rules have been broken so far but will take action if the review finds otherwise.
An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Installing prepayment meters under warrant should be used as a last resort by energy suppliers when consumers get into debt. It is a way to prevent a customer from being disconnected. Suppliers can only install a prepayment meter where it is safe and reasonably practical for the consumer to use.”
The regulator added it will formalise suppliers’ current voluntary practice of allowing PPM customers with a debt of up to £500 per fuel to switch by making it an obligation.
Trade body Energy UK insisted suppliers only install prepayment meters at warrant “as a last resort to help customers manage their debt”.
A spokesperson added: “Prepayment meters can help customers manage their budget where paying on a monthly or quarterly basis is not suitable for them. If a customer is worried about budgeting or the build-up of debt they should get in touch with their supplier or call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99.”
Last week E.ON announced it is offering its cheapest tariffs to prepayment customers – the same as standard customers.