Business Secretary rebukes Ofgem for ‘having the wool pulled over their eyes’

Grant Shapps has told the energy regulator to toughen up over prepayment meter scandal

The Business Secretary has told Ofgem to take a tougher stance on reckless practices of energy suppliers in the wake of increased forced prepayment meter (PPM) installations.

This follows an investigation by The Times which exposed certain cases of forced PPM installations at the houses of several vulnerable people.

Grant Shapps has given energy suppliers a deadline of Tuesday to report on how they would compensate customers, should they have wrongfully installed PPMs.

Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am appalled that vulnerable customers struggling with their energy bills have had their homes invaded and prepayment meters installed when there is a clear duty on suppliers to provide them with support. They need to refocus their efforts on their consumers, the British public, who are at the receiving end of this abhorrent behaviour.

“I’m also concerned the regulator is too easily having the wool pulled over their eyes by taking at face value what energy companies are telling them. They need to also listen to customers to make sure this treatment of vulnerable consumers doesn’t happen again.”

An Ofgem spokesperson said: “We share the Secretary of State’s shock at the behaviour that The Times investigation has uncovered at British Gas and, as a result, we have launched an immediate investigation and have issued a legal order for British Gas to cease all warrant activities until they can demonstrate compliance with our standards and requirements.

“What is clear, as the Secretary of State has laid out, is that the picture presented by companies may not accurately reflect what is experienced by customers on the ground. Therefore, further reviews will cross examine what we have had reported to us with direct reports from customers and wider stakeholders, and potentially those involved in delivery of services. This will include finding new ways for customers to highlight their concerns to Ofgem.”

Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive Officer of Energy UK, the trade association which represents energy suppliers, said: “Energy UK is deeply concerned by the behaviour towards vulnerable customers that we saw reported this week. Energy suppliers are conducting deep dives into reviewing their practices, and all the major suppliers have voluntarily halted prepayment installations under warrant whilst these reviews happen.

“It’s vital industry works to fix any issues as fast as possible.”

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