Campaigners have recently called for a ban on pre-payment energy meter (PPM) installations through court warrants. This is spurred by concerns that energy companies are using them to disconnect vulnerable customers especially during the cost of living crisis.
According to the energy companies licence conditions they are meant to protect vulnerable people from having their energy disconnected over the winter period. However the organisation End Fuel Poverty Coalition have reported that transferring households on to expensive PPMs is resulting in people already in debt to effectively self disconnect their energy because they can’t afford to top up their meters.
Its also concerning that energy companies are using PPMs frequently as a method of revenue protection for themselves.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition have also revealed that some magistrates courts are possibly awarding warrants to install pre payment meters after revealing that freedom of information requests shows that 187,000 applications for warrants were made in the first six months of 2022. This therefore makes it unlikely they were approved on a case by-case ratio.
Reports have also suggested that energy firms are also switching customers smart meters from credit to pre-payment mode remotely without assessing the customers ability to pay for this. This is a complete failure to legally follow essential due process which includes assessing for vulnerabilities that show that it’s safe to install a PPM.
The report and figures from Ofgem reveal that approximately 152,000 households that have smart meters were switched remotely to more expensive PPM plans that also incorporate their debt by their energy supplier in 2021. During the past three months 60,000 households switched without following due process in the past three months.
The coalition calls upon the Government and Ofgem to place a ban on switching customers to a PPM with a warrant and also a ban switching smart meters to PPM mode without anyactive, informed, consumer consent.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition is quoted as saying “Self-disconnection is as dangerous as disconnection by any other means, and energy firms need to be alert to the pain they are causing consumers by switching them to pre-payment meters without their active and informed consent.
“If people don’t keep their homes warm, they are at risk from the severe health complications of living in a cold, damp home, and those who are elderly, disabled or have pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable this winter.”
Ruth London, of Fuel Poverty Action also went on to say “Imposition of a pre-payment meter is disconnection by the back door. When you can’t top up the meter everything clicks off, regardless of whether you are old, ill, or have a newborn baby.
“Now smart meters are being used to cut people off supply by imposing pre-payment remotely. We were all encouraged to get smart meters and told they would help us save money. Some people always suspected they would be used for illegal disconnections. They have been proved right.
Indeed we have.
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