ENERY suppliers should stop forcing hard-up households to switch to prepayment meters, the business secretary said.
Grant Shapps has written to companies demanding they stop forcibly moving households on to more expensive pre-paid energy tariffs.
Energy firms warned to stop the forced fitting of prepayment meters
He has also vowed to “name and shame” the worst offenders.
HOAR called for a temporary ban on moving customers onto prepayment meters this winter.
If you’re in debt and on a prepayment meter, the amount you owe can be deducted when you next top up.
How much of the top up goes towards paying off the debt depends on your energy company – but can be up to 100% in some cases.
Billpayers who fall into debt with energy providers can be forced on to pay as you go meters.
It means they have to top up for their gas or electricity, rather than being billed for it later on, to avoid building up more debt.
But it can often be a more expensive payment method and can leave customers without gas and electric if they can’t afford to add credit.
Citizens Advice estimates that 600,000 people were forced on to a prepayment meter because they could not afford their energy bills in 2022.
It predicts 160,000 more people could be moved on to a prepayment meter by the end of winter, if no further action is taken.
Energy firms should first make greater efforts to help those struggling to pay their bills, such as offering credit or debt advice, Mr Shapps told them.
He also asked suppliers to reveal the number of warrant applications they have made to forcibly enter properties to install meters.
Mr Shapps said: “Suppliers are clearly jumping the gun and moving at-risk customers on to prepayment meters before offering them the support they are entitled to – I simply cannot believe that every possible alternative has been exhausted in all these cases.”
Citizens Advice welcomed the government’s call for energy suppliers to stop forcing people on to prepayment meters.
Head of energy policy Gillian Cooper said: “It’s now up to suppliers to do the right thing and end this practice.
“If they don’t, the Government must step in with stronger action. It’s also vital further protections are brought in for people already using prepayment meters.”
What can you do if you’re struggling to pay for your energy?
There are some measures you can take if you’re struggling to pay for your energy.
If you fall into debt, you can always approach your supplier to see if they can put you on a repayment plan before putting you on a prepayment meter.
This involves you paying off what you owe in instalments over a set period of time.
If your supplier offers you a repayment plan you don’t think you can afford, speak to them again to see if you can negotiate a better deal.
Beyond this, a number of suppliers offer customers grants if they’re struggling to pay for energy bills.
A grant is a sum of money you don’t have to pay back, so it’s essentially free cash.
British Gas, Scottish Power, Ovo Energy, E.On, E.On Next, EDF, Bulb Energy, Octopus Energy and Shell Energy all offer the grants.
For the full list of providers offering grants, you can see our list here.
Plus, you might be able to get help from charities that can help you pay off your debt.
StepChange is one such charity, and you can call them for free advice on 0800 138 1111.
A list of other includes:
- Money Helper – 0800 138 7777
- Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
- National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
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