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100,000 forced energy prepay meters fitted in 2022: Worst suppliers revealed

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak
Posted:
Updated:
27/03/2023

More than 94,000 energy prepayment meters were installed last year without householders’ consent, with the Government naming and shaming the suppliers with the highest figures.

That’s the equivalent of 7,500 meters being forcibly fitted every single month last year, according to figures released by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

It revealed the “most overzealous suppliers” and it is no surprise to see that British Gas (Centrica) tops the name and shame list with 25,000 fitted last year.

The energy giant has been at the centre of the prepayment meter scandal, after claims by The Times that its third-party agents broke into the homes of vulnerable people to fit prepay meters without their permission.

British Gas suspended these installations “until at least the end of the winter” off the back of these claims, while the regulator Ofgem, launched an urgent investigation.

It has suspended forced PPM installations which won’t be lifted until all energy suppliers sign up to a new code of practice – expected in April – before the industry can fit these pricier meters again.

Since the exposé, Ofgem has also urged suppliers to check whether prepayment meters were installed correctly under its rules, and to offer compensation if they were fitted inappropriately.

Forced prepayment meter numbers per energy supplier

The Government figures revealed Scottish Power came second, with 24,320 PPM fitted last year. However, going on customer base alone, Scottish Power ranks worst, and above British Gas with over 500 installations per 100,000 meter points.

In third place, comes OVO which disclosed 16,867 pay-as-you-go meters were installed in 2022.

This means these three suppliers made up 70% of all forced PPM installations with a total of 66,187 devices fitted under warrant.

The table below shows the full figures:

‘Horrifying picture of forced meter installations’

Energy security secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Today’s figures give a clear and horrifying picture of just how widespread the forced installation of prepayment meters had become, with last year seeing an average of over 7,500 force-fitted a month.

“Prepayment meters are right for some people, so I do not want to ban them outright, but I do have concerns that companies have not been treating their customers fairly, over an already difficult winter during which the Government has tried to help families by paying around half the energy bill of the average household.

“After my calls for change, I’m pleased that suppliers have made their actions public and agreed to put a stop to forcing prepayment onto vulnerable customers for good – but this cannot happen again.

“I will be watching Ofgem’s ongoing review closely so customers get the support they need – and those vulnerable consumers who have wrongly suffered forced installations get the justice they deserve in the form of redress.”

An Ofgem spokesperson, said: “All courts have stopped warrant applications and forced installations are suspended until [suppliers] sign up to, implement and comply with our new legally enforceable code of practice. We’re running the biggest ever market review of PPM installations – examining every single supplier’s compliance with their legal obligations.

“We’re investigating serious allegations into British Gas’ debt enforcement and we’re reviewing all the rules, regulations and guidelines – to strengthen consumer protection. We have told all suppliers to review every single forced installation – removing those which do not follow the rules and compensate customers where required.”

What do the suppliers say?

YourMoney.com contacted British Gas, Scottish Power and OVO for comment. British Gas said it has nothing further to add.

A Scottish Power spokesperson, said: “Affordability is a major concern for customers and our processes are tailored to take account of customer vulnerabilities and circumstances. We would not switch a customer to prepayment without advanced notice and installing a prepayment meter is always a last resort, only after we have exhausted all other options to speak to and work with customers on debt repayment.

“Scottish Power is currently not installing pre-payment meters, or recovering debt from those customers on new pre-payment meters, unless requested by the customer and is focused purely on charging for usage.”

We’ll update this news story once we hear back from OVO.