Ofgem persuades powercos to ease up installations of prepayment meters


Britain’s consumer champion tasked by law with protecting power consumers has backed Ofgem’s new deal slowing power companies’ readiness to instal prepayment meters in households at risk of defaulting.

Ofgem announced this morning it had secured voluntary sign-up from all Britain’s suppliers for better practice, following recent scandals of forced entry by contractors employed by big power companies.

Under the new rules, a supplier must now demonstrate at least ten attempts to contact a billpayer in poor standing, before instructing enforced installation of a meter.

Energy firms must now make welfare assessments of homes at risk of default.  Where medical equipment incurs high bills, new tougher enforcement curbs apply. Consumers aged 85 living along cannot have meters forcibly installed.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “This voluntary code of practice is a much needed improvement in the protections people have against the forced installation of a prepayment meter by energy companies

“It’s now up to suppliers to follow the rules and for Ofgem to crack down quickly on any sign of bad practice. The regulator must also act swiftly to make this voluntary code mandatory.

“For too many the damage has already been done. Suppliers must now check that none of their existing customers are paying for their energy via a prepay meter when it’s not a safe option for them.”

The regulator announced this morning a cessation of all involuntary installations of card- or coin-operated meters, such as contractors entering homes under court order, or suppliers switching meters on remotely.   Both Citizens Advice and suppliers represented by Energy UK had taken part in the talks.

Ofgem promised to monitor the new PPM regime, and said it was already investigating the legacy of recent poor practice.

No suppliers should restart involuntary PPMs until they can demonstrate readiness to implement the new Code, it said.



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