‘A prepayment customer was cut off every ten seconds in 2022’

Citizens Advice say more people couldn’t top up their prepayment meter than in 2022 than in the whole of the last decade

Big Zero Report 2022

Millions of people are struggling to pay their bills as the cost of living crisis hits households.

New research from Citizens Advice found that nearly 3.2 million people across the UK ran out of credit on their prepayment meter last year because they could not afford to top up.

The report suggests that one person every ten seconds is cut off from their energy supply.

In 2022, Citizens Advice saw more people who can’t top up their prepayment meter than in the whole of the last ten years combined.

Based on Ofgem figures, it estimates that nearly 600,000 people were forced onto a prepayment meter because they could not afford their energy bills in 2022.

The charity predicts almost 160,000 more people could be moved onto a prepayment meter by the end of winter if no further action is taken by the government.

Earlier this week, Minister for Energy and Climate Graham Stuart replied to a written question about whether the government would instruct Ofgem to require energy companies to halt all new installations of prepayment meters, including remote switching of smart meters.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The staggering rise in the cost of living means many simply cannot afford to heat and power their homes to safe levels.

“New protections are needed to stop people being fully cut off from gas and electricity. Until then, there must be a total ban on energy companies forcing those already at breaking point onto prepayment meters. If Ofgem doesn’t act, the government must intervene.”

National Energy Action Director of Policy Peter Smith said: “The findings highlight just how desperate the energy crisis is for millions of low income and vulnerable households.

“We are hearing daily from people who are having to put their health at risk by forgoing heating. Imagine not being able to cook, not being able to charge up a phone to call relatives, having daily cold showers, eating off dirty plates and having no clean clothes. It’s the definition of misery and it’s happening every day in millions of homes across the UK.”

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