UK energy suppliers stop clawing back debts via prepayment meters

(This article was published by The Guardian)


Following our webinar – The UK’s Energy Future at a Crossroads (watch again here), Radix Fellow Barry James, with his think-tank Humane Energy, has produced a report on the use of prepay meters, calling on energy suppliers to stop debt recovery over winter.

The report features in this article from the Guardian, describing how several energy companies have stopped debt recovery on prepayment meters until Winter and that some energy companies have also paused forced installations by warrant over Christmas.

It continues

Campaigners have now called on more energy suppliers to follow suit. A report on the use of prepayment meters by the thinktank Humane Energy, seen by the Guardian, demands an immediate ban on “clawbacks” of energy debt until the end of March and during subsequent winters. It suggests a limit of £1 a week should be recoverable during the intervening periods.

The campaigning thinktank also calls for all customers on prepayment meters to be classed as vulnerable until they have been assessed otherwise through communications with their energy supplier and that process is overseen by regulator Ofgem.

The role of magistrates has been questioned after it emerged that a handful of courts around the country are signing off thousands of entry warrants each month, allowing suppliers access to force people on to prepayment meters.

The Humane Energy report raises concerns about the increasing number of people being remotely switched on to prepay tariffs through a smart meter.

Barry James, the thinktank’s founder, said: “Customers agreeing to take a smart meter are typically unaware they can be remote-controlled to cut off supply or to ‘mode-switch’ to prepay at a moment’s notice. Worse, they can, and are being, foisted on distressed customers, including vulnerable households, to pick their pockets, with up to 50% of each payment swiped as clawback for arrears.

“Regulation has yet to catch up, but even current protections are being evaded, depriving vulnerable customers of intended protections. The government needs to work urgently with regulator Ofgem to ban clawbacks during winters, and limit them at other times of year.”

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