Disability campaigners ask for ban on prepayment meters

Thu,26 January 2023
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Recent months have seen Disabled and other financially vulnerable people being subject to warrants that allow energy suppliers to forcibly install prepayment meters in their homes.

Force-fitting is used to recover bill arrears. Debt collection agents acting on behalf of nation’s gas and electricity supply companies have enforced more than 490,000 warrants since July 2021.

Magistrates insist they have no choice but to issue hundreds of thousands of warrants allowing debt recovery agents and energy supplier representatives to enter homes to install prepayment meters.

This week, the business secretary Grant Shapps told energy suppliers they must stop forcing financially vulnerable households to switch to prepayment meters. However, he fell short of asking for an outright ban, instead calling on firms to do this voluntarily.

Mr Shapps also asked energy firms to share any data on the number of warrants they have requested in order to name and shame the worst offenders in the industry. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy further requested that suppliers make a greater effort in helping customers before issuing warrants through the courts.

He has also written to regulator Ofgem asking that they do more to make sure suppliers protect vulnerable consumers as well as asking them to conduct a review of suppliers who are not abiding by the rules.

The Disability Poverty Campaign group ( DPCG) of which DR UK is a leading member, has responded to the announcement from Westminster by launching a campaign asking that there be a mandatory ban on forced installation of prepayment meters in the UK’s Disabled households. DPCG is also pushing for a ban on forced remote switching of smart meters from credit to prepayment mode, and asking that the Government work with the energy firms, the regulator and DPOs (Disabled peoples organisations) to establish a special social tariff for financially vulnerable customers.

Dan White policy and campaigns officer at DR UK and one of the leads at DPCG said: “Any action by the government to stop courts from being overwhelmed with mounting applications from energy firms for warrants to install prepayment meters is welcome but asking firms to do it voluntarily is useless. The only way to resolve this and to protect Disabled and vulnerable consumers is to ban the practice of installing PPMs completely.

The DPCG has begun a campaign to push for this resolution. We have started by writing to the PM and the business secretary requesting a re-think and to work with us to develop solutions, we have launched a letter writing campaign on the Action network and issued a press release. This week we will also start a social media campaign, all in the hope of government seeing sense.

We urge everyone to share the letter, write to their MP and share our social media messages.”

PLEASE write to your MP asking for a ban on PPMs. Simply go to the Action Network it will guide you through the process.

To view the letter to the Prime Minister click here.