Prepayment meter ban extended by Ofgem

Wed,15 March 2023
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A ban on the forced installation of prepayment meters by energy companies has been extended beyond the end of March, Ofgem has announced, with the ban being in place “indefinitely”.

The regulator is conducting a review of the practices of energy firms after The Times newspaper announced that bailiffs acting on behalf of energy firms were breaking into the homes of financially vulnerable people to force fit prepayment meters to cover fuel debt.

A former magistrate told a Select Committee of MPs that he was dealing with a spreadsheet of between 50 and 100 applications at a time for energy companies to force-fit prepayment meters in people’s homes. Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, talking about the courts warrant-process said: “I think it’s important to understand that because in 2019, despite all those concerns, the process was changed such that the field was tilted even further in favour of the energy company.”

The news of the continuation of the ban was announced at a joint session of The Business and Justice Committees which has been taking place this week, in which energy firms, the regulator and debt collection agencies were present.

Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, told MPs that suppliers would not now be resuming the installations of PPMs until a code of practice was published and Ofgem was satisfied it was being adhered to by all involved.

Mr Brearley said: “Our priority is making sure this industry gets its act in order. Therefore, they will not be restarting forced installation of prepayment meters at the end of March.”

This news was followed by the Budget announcement that People paying for their energy via pre-payment meters will soon pay the same as those on direct debits

The Chancellor said “The energy premium paid by our poorest households is coming to an end."

The Chancellor also said the energy price guarantee, which keeps the average household bill at £2,500, will be extended at its current level from April to June. It had been due to rise to £3,000 in April.

Dan White policy and campaigns officer at DR UK and one of the leads at the Disability Poverty Campaign group, which has been campaigning against the forced installation of PPMs, said: “It’s not often the Disabled community can chalk up a win against the forces of industry or government, but today we can. The DPCG along with other anti-poverty coalitions has campaigned relentlessly for the ban on PPM forced installations to be made permanent and today we have heard that the ban is going to continue. We now need to make sure that the ban remains permanent, because no matter what the new code of practice states on PPMs, no one should ever be forced onto one.

The Chancellor’s announcement that those on PPMs will pay the same tariff as those on direct debit, further consigns these outdated and offensive machines to the past where they belong.

So, although we can celebrate today, we go back to battle tomorrow.”