“Complete ban on forced prepay meters could make energy bills rise for all”

Energy companies say such a move could increase the bad debt that would be recouped from customer bills

Big Zero Report 2022

The chief of a leading trade association has highlighted the implications of a total ban on forced prepayment meter installations.

This follows the government’s call for suppliers to stop this practice before exhausting other options for providing additional support to customers.

Emma Pinchbeck, Energy UK’s Chief Executive has stressed that the idea of removing forced installations could lead to an increase in bad debt and the public will be then asked to pay for it through their bills.

Ms Pinchbeck said: “Suppliers are already required to have exhausted all other options before installing a prepayment meter by warrant – only after repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact the customer to discuss repayment options and offer support and after checks to ensure they do not go ahead when customers are in the most vulnerable situations.

“Suppliers also have a duty to manage debt and to try and prevent customers falling further into arrears. If the option to install a prepayment meter – after exhausting other options – is removed, then it needs to be acknowledged that this will lead to a significant increase in bad debt, which has already been rising steeply in recent months and is ultimately recouped from customer bills.”

Earlier today, Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s Chief Executive, wrote in a blog post: “The numbers of forced installation of pre-payment meters is extremely high. It is simply not acceptable that vulnerable customers are left in the dark and cold in Winter.

“Therefore today, we will take forward a further a more detailed assessment to check whether plans have led to improvements. This review will focus specifically on self-disconnections, remote switching and forced installations and, the checks and balances companies have around any decision to put a customer on a pre-payment meter.

“If we find that they have not taken due care in this process, we will take further legal action against them.”

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