Major energy supplier makes change to prepayment meters following British Gas | The Sun

ANOTHER major energy supplier has made a major change to prepayment meters following British Gas.

EDF Energy has now suspended forcing the installation of prepayment meters in hard-up households.

It comes after The Times reported that British Gas was caught sending debt collectors to "break into" people’s homes and "force-fit" prepayment meters.

British Gas was found to be doing this even when customers were known to have "extreme vulnerabilities".

British Gas announced last night that it will stop applying for court warrants to enter customers’ homes and fit prepayment meters following the report.

EDF Energy is also now confirmed it will be following suit.

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Warrants give energy firms the legal right to enter homes and install the meters, but these should only be used in exceptional circumstances and should be a last resort.

This usually happens if a customer is in debt with their energy bill and the supplier has been unable to contact them for a prolonged period of time.

A spokesman for EDF said: "In 2022, we applied for 13,766 warrants in relation to domestic customer debt and in around half of these cases we took the decision not to proceed once the customer had engaged and we understood their circumstances.

"We regularly review and update these processes and so we are confident they are fit for purpose.

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"Nonetheless we are currently reviewing them again to reconfirm they are robust and see if we can make any improvements.

"We have suspended forced installation of prepayment meters while we conduct this latest review."

In response to the findings of the Times invetigation, the energy regulator Ofgem put out a stern warning to the industry that it wouldn't tolerate "unacceptable behaviour."

An Ofgem spokesperson said: "We are launching an urgent investigation into British Gas and we won’t hesitate to take firm enforcement action.

"It is unacceptable for any supplier to impose forced installations on vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills before all other options have been exhausted and without carrying out thorough checks to ensure it is safe and practicable to do so.

"We have launched a major market-wide review investigating the rapid growth in prepayment meter installations and potential breaches of licences driving it."

Ovo Energy and Utilita halted forcing customers onto costly prepayment meters over the busy Christmas period.

The pause of installations – which can be done without a customer's permission under a court warrant – was in place until December 31 for Ovo Energy customers and January 3, for those with Utilita.

Shell Energy also paused putting customers onto prepayment meters until the end of last month.

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 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, Octopus Energy and Shell Energy all offer the grants.

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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.

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