Data reveals extent of the prepayment meter scandal

Wed,29 March 2023
News Housing
Ofgem announced last month that the ban on the forced installation of Prepayment meters under warrant was to be continued past the end of March, saying that the ban was now “indefinite”.

The ban was initially put in place after The Times broke the story of how financially vulnerable households were having Prepayment meters installed in their homes by debt collection agencies working on behalf of energy firms.

The decision to extend the ban was made after campaign groups across the country continued to campaign for a permanent ban on installations by warrant, saying that any lifting of the ban would be sending the wrong message to consumers who are still struggling with fuel debt in the cost-of-living crisis.

Ofgem are now reviewing the use of PPMs and companies have been instructed to offer compensation to customers where the meters were wrongly installed, and where regulations were not followed.

Following on from the announcement of the continuation of the ban, it was announced this week that data given to energy minister Grant Shapps showed that in 2022 94,000 prepayment meters were forcibly installed in homes without customer consent, with around 70% of them by the biggest energy suppliers such as Scottish Power, OVO Energy, and British Gas.  Scottish Power was “the worst offender” in relation to its customer base as it apparently forced more than 24,300 prepayment meters into its customers’ homes.

The data shows that British Gas installed 25,000 prepayment meters using warrants in 2022, followed by Scottish Power with 24,320 and OVO Energy with 16,867. Behind the “big three” energy firms were E. ON with 10,220, EDF with 7,240 and Shell with 4,145.

Responding to the data, Mr Shapps said: "Today's figures give a clear and horrifying picture of just how widespread the forced installation of prepayment meters had become, with last year seeing an average of over 7,500 force-fitted a month."

Dan White policy and campaigns officer at DR UK and one of the leads at the Disability Poverty Campaign Group said: “After we were successful in extending the ban on forced installations of PPMs, we are now witnessing the opening of a pandoras box of horror stories about the duplicitous behaviour of energy firms. To hear that nearly 94,000 meters were forced installed last year is horrific. Any ban must surely now remain, even after a new code of practice is written up, as this data only confirms the recklessness of an industry seemingly seeing itself as unaccountable.”