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Prepayment Energy Meters, Are You Due Compensation?

February 28, 2023

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.


Energy suppliers have been told by Ofgem this week to pay compensation to customers wrongly forced to have prepayment meters.  Other customers may have the right to have their prepayment meters removed, even if they don’t get compensation.  We would like to hear from Benefits and Work readers if you have been affected by this growing scandal.

According to Ofgem rules, suppliers can’t legally force-fit a prepayment meter under warrant for people in very vulnerable situations if they don’t want one. Nor can they legally use warrants on people who would find the experience very traumatic.

Yet it has become increasingly clear that suppliers have been forcibly fitting meters unlawfully with virtually no scrutiny by courts, who simply took the suppliers word that all the necessary checks had been made.

T get a warrant, energy companies’ representatives swear an oath that they have complied with their supply licence.  This licence stipulates that they must not seek a warrant to enter the homes of vulnerable people in order to fit prepayment meters.

The Magistrates Association now says that energy companies “cannot be safely relied upon to ensure that those for whom warrants are sought are not vulnerable, but only that they are not known to be”.

In other words, magistrates now suspect that energy companies have not been bothering to check whether someone is vulnerable before forcing their way into their home.

People who count as vulnerable include those who have a physical or mental health condition which makes it hard to use a prepayment meter.  This could include problems with reaching the meter, reading the meter, adding credit or getting to a shop where they can buy credit.

People who have an illness that affects their breathing or which is made worse by being cold will also be classed as vulnerable, as will people who rely on medical equipment that needs electricity such as a stairlift or dialysis machine.

There’s more information about this on the Citizens Advice website.

Energy suppliers have now been told to stop forcibly fitting meters until 31 March, when it is expected that new guidance will be issued.

But, according to a report in the Guardian, Ofgem has told energy suppliers they should uninstall prepayment meters that were wrongly forced on customers and pay compensation now, rather than wait for the new guidance.

You can find more about Ofgem’s rules on prepayment meters here.

If you agreed to a prepayment meter being installed you may have done so under duress, with threats to disconnect you.  Under these circumstances, if you are a vulnerable person, you can still ask for the meter to be replaced and may be entitled to compensation. 

Even if you agreed without duress, if it’s no longer safe and practical for you to use a prepayment meter, your supplier has to do one of the following:

  • move your meter to a place where you can get to it
  • replace your meter with a standard credit meter
  • adapt your meter or payments so they become safe and practical
  • arrange for you to pay in a different way
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