Improved protections against forced fitting of pre-payment meters

Wed,19 April 2023
News Climate change Housing
Ofgem has announced a new code of practice, which bans the forced installation of Prepayment meters (PPMs) for people with severe health conditions including terminal illness, those over 85, people with health conditions that worsen in the cold and those with health related equipment.

The new voluntary code follows the scandal of the forced fitting of pre-payment meters in the homes of vulnerable and Disabled customers. The resulting public and political uproar saw Ofgem move to ban forced installations until it had conducted a review into suppliers’ practices, at the time announcing an “indefinite ban".

On 18 April, Ofgem confirmed that all suppliers would need to meet certain conditions before the installation of pre-payment meters could re-commence.   The New code stops energy suppliers from fitting PPMs for the “highest risk customers” These include:

  • Households which require a continuous supply of energy for health reasons, especially those with a dependency on medical equipment powered by electricity.
  • People over 85 years of age.
  • Households with residents with severe health issues including terminal illnesses or those with a medical dependency on a warm home (for example due to illness such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sickle cell disease)   
  • Where there is no one within the household that can top up the meter due to physical or mental incapacity. 

Energy companies must also attempt to contact a customer at least 10 times and perform a “site welfare visit” before any involuntary installation of a prepayment meter. Also, debt collection agents must wear body cameras or audio equipment to ensure that they comply with the new code.

Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley said: “Ofgem’s new voluntary code of practice is a minimum standard that clearly sets out steps all suppliers must take before moving to a PPM.

“If and when involuntary PPMs are used, it must be as a last resort, and customers in vulnerable situations will be given the extra care and consideration they deserve, over and above the rules already in place, by suppliers – something that has clearly not always been happening.”

Dan white policy and campaigns officer at DR UK and one of the leads at the Disability Poverty Campaign Group said: “While we welcome the protections given to Disabled people in Ofgem’s voluntary code and hope to see such protections extended and strengthened in new supplier licence agreements in the autumn, there is still much more that could and should be done.”

We do have some major concerns including the failure to consult with Disabled people’s organisations in developing this Code, the potential intrusive nature of health checks and the exclusion of Disabled people using mobility equipment such as wheelchairs, lifts, and hoists.

We would want Ofgem to extend and strengthen the provisions before they become incorporated into supplier licence agreements in the autumn.”

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