Resisting forced prepay meters

Two photos: an older woman of colour wheelchair user looking worried.  2nd photo: a hand inserts a meter card into an electricity meter.

A disabled woman in our group successfully resisted the energy company trying to force her onto a prepay meter — even though her energy bill was in arrears. She argued that a prepay meter was not accessible for her. She told them that because of her ill-health, often she can’t go out to the shop to put money on a card or key. She does not have anyone to do it for her. Her homecare hours are very limited and the carer’s time is for personal care only.

Ofgem is the regulator that sets the rules that energy companies must follow. They said in their letter to suppliers (November 2022):

Suppliers’ obligations are clear. The Standards of Conduct (Standard Licence Condition 0) contain enforceable overarching principles that suppliers must treat all domestic consumers fairly and that suppliers need to make extra effort to identify and respond to the needs of their consumers in vulnerable situations. These obligations include how a supplier behaves, and that they must seek to identify each consumer in a vulnerable situation in a manner that is effective and appropriate and has regard to their interests. Suppliers must also apply the Standards of Conduct in a manner which takes into account any vulnerable situation a consumer is in. 

Standard Licence Condition 28 stipulates prepayment meters should only be used where it is safe and reasonably practicable. Prepayment meters should not be installed or remotely switched without carrying out appropriate assessments, including identifying any vulnerability.*

WinVisible is part of the Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG) which is focussing on fuel poverty and has regular meetings with Ofgem.  We are discussing with DPCG the general practices of suppliers which affect sick and disabled users, and have also been contacted by the national media about this.

*Thanks to Helen Rowlands, Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel, for this info.

Read additional info from CAB here

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