BRITISH Gas sent agents to break into vulnerable Brits' homes and forcibly install prepayment gas meters, reports claim.
A shocking investigation by The Times uncovered that heartless debt collectors hired by the company expressed "excitement" as they forced pay-as-you-go meters onto the poor.
Warrants give energy firms the legal right to enter homes and install the kit.
Customers must then top up payments to receive gas, or risk their heating being cut off.
British Gas has now suspended forced installations until after winter.
According to The Times, debt collectors working for Arvato Financial Solutions, a firm contracted by British Gas, used locksmiths to enter the homes of customers falling behind on bills.
READ MORE MONEY NEWS
British Gas makes major change to prepayment meters after undercover sting
British Gas customers furious over major change causing huge bill chaos
Even when customers weren't home they'd sneak in to install the meters.
Mum-of-four Jade Olton was with her newborn baby when agents working on behalf of British Gas banged on her door.
The 25-year-old and her partner Jack were struggling to pay energy bills, which had shot up from £54 to £364 per month.
It was minus zero degrees outside, but agents – including an undercover Times reporter – proceeded to enter her property with intention to install the meter.
Most read in The Sun
Huge shake up to football ownership leaked – what it means for your club
Molly Mae Hague fans horrified as they work out how much baby Bambi's cot cost
Parents of missing mum fear someone 'got her' as they reveal last chat with her
Amanda Holden goes braless as she leaves radio show in bright red outfit
Jade got emotional and told the debt collectors she'd turn the heating off if it weren't for her kids.
“At first when prices started rising we started keeping the heating off,” Jade told The Times.
“I thought, if we can turn it off, turn it off. If we’re cold, wrap up. We didn’t put the heating on until night time when it was the absolute coldest.
“But the kids, their hands. After the school run because it was so cold outside, we would come home and they weren’t able to warm up enough. Then we started getting black mould above the front door. That was a turning point and I thought, I’m going to put my heating on regardless.”
Jade, who has relied on foodbanks, continued making £70 payments to British Gas – the most she could afford.
But aggressive debt collectors were sent to home anyway.
In Jade's case the team leader decided the job could not proceed.
But others haven't been so lucky.
Jade wanted to speak out about the incident to prevent it from happening to families like hers.
Responding to The Times investigation, the CEO of Centrica, which owns British Gas, said:
"Protecting vulnerable customers is an absolute priority and we have clear processes and policies to ensure we manage customer debt carefully and safely.
"The allegations around our third-party contractor Arvato Financial Solutions are unacceptable and we immediately suspended their warrant activity.
"Having recently reviewed our internal processes to support our prepayment customers as well as creating a new £10 million fund to support those prepayment customers who need help the most.”
He added: “I am extremely disappointed that this has occurred.”
Energy regulator Ofgem has also announced it will launch an investigation.
A spokesman said: "These are extremely serious allegations from The Times which we will investigate urgently with British Gas and we won't hesitate to take firm enforcement action.
Read More on The Sun
Martin Lewis reveals grandparents missing out on £1,000s of free cash
Inside UK’s richest gypsy’s £6m mansion with car showroom & sweeping staircase
"We recently announced a major market-wide review investigating the rapid growth in prepayment meter installations and potential breaches of licences driving it.
"We are clear that suppliers must work hard to look after their customers at this time, especially those who are vulnerable, and the energy crisis must not be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour towards any customer – particularly those in vulnerable circumstances."
Source: Read Full Article
Where Perrottet and Minns have been campaigning in the final week ahead of the election
I paid for professional skydiving photos… the results were AWFUL
YouTuber Who Defamed Cardi B Loses Appeal, Must Pay Her Millions
The CW Lays Off Over a Dozen Employees in Latest Round of Cuts Under Nexstar
IRAM RAMZAN: Let's say 'you're fired'… to Lord Sugar himself
The 10 Highest Grossing Antonio Banderas films, Ranked
Ian Somerhalder: Pregnant wife Nikki Reed is in ‘home stretch’ with baby No. 2
17 Comfy Joggers That Totally Pass as Going Out or Work Pants