Energy firms vary unacceptably in their success or lack of it in delivering energy savings vouchers to to customers struggling with high prepayment meter tariffs, new figures from D-BEIS reveal.
E Gas and Electricity on 85% and Bulb on 79% top the suppliers’ league on redemption rates of government-authorised vouchers, issued monthly under the Energy Bills Support to customers on dearer-tariff prepayment meters
In contrast, Good Energy, Utilita and Scottish Power have the lowest rates of vouchers cashed on behalf of struggling bill payers, according to figures released by D-BEIS secretary Grant Shapps.
The minister’s publication is an explicit, calculated move to shame laggard firms in to informing their hardest-pressed users more.
The figures have reached public scrutiny amid fears that customers in poor credit are too often bullied by energy retailers into having prepayment meters fitted¸ delivering power at premium cost.
Targeted solely at consumers who feeding cash onto a card read by a prepayment box, the Energy Bills Support scheme has seen £5.7 billion provided to 99% of households to forestall rocketing winter bills.
From data provided by suppliers, ministry officials calculate that 29% of all vouchers issued monthly remain uncashed.
At the weekend Shapps committed to publishing a list of supplier redemption rates for Energy Bills Support Scheme vouchers, showing who is meeting their responsibilities and who needs to do more.
“The public have a right to know which suppliers are leading the charge with getting this help to them”, Shapps said.
“That’s why I’m holding energy companies to account to make sure they are doing everything they can to support their customers at this time.
“We’re ramping up efforts so consumers know exactly what they need to do to redeem these vouchers, but we need suppliers to do much more and I want to see these numbers rise.”
An advertising campaign breaking today will tell customers where to redeem vouchers, such as at post offices or a PayPoint shops. Licenced suppliers are being instructed by D-BEIS to increase efforts to contact customers who have not redeemed their vouchers.
The drive comes after fears that, with as many as 7.2 million households now in fuel poverty, suppliers are inflicting prepayment installations too quickly on struggling users, particularly vulnerable & disabled customers explicitly safeguarded by metering rules.
Citizens Advice calculate that last year 3.2 million people were left in the cold and dark after running out of prepay credit.
The charity, Britain’s statutory watchdog against fuel poverty, greeted the energy secretary’s move. Gillian Cooper, its head of energy policy, said: “We welcome the government’s call for energy suppliers to stop forcing people onto prepayment meters.
“It’s now up to suppliers to do the right thing and end this practice. If they don’t, the government must step in with stronger action. It’s also vital further protections are brought in for people already using prepayment meters.”