Ofgem, the energy regulator, has warned that the tactic to force prepayment meters on customers should be an absolute last resort to recover debt. When compared against other energy suppliers, British Gas, Ovo Energy and Utility Warehouse has showed to be more aggressive than others on their approach.
According to Ofgem, over 2017, the number of gas prepayment meters installed using a court order increased by 6.9%. The increase has lead to Ofgem considering an intervention whereby it would “take tough action”.
Speaking on the matter, Ofgem’s Rob Salter-Church argued energy companies “could do more” and protecting vulnerable customers should be a top priority.
In the report, British Gas, Ovo Energy and Utility Warehouse were singled out due to their above average number of forcible installations.
British Gas spokesperson said, “Warrants are only ever issues as a last resort and we have seen a decrease in the numbers carried out this year.
“British Gas offers lots of help and advice to customers to prevent them from reaching this stage. Warrants are a way of keeping a customer’s energy supply running when they are in debt and have not contacted us about their bills. Customers can switch from a prepayment meter to a credit meter after they pass a credit check.”
Similarly Ovo Energy spokesperson said, “Ofgem’s report does not reflect the changes made by Ovo Energy in August 2017 to our escalated collections processes, specifically the use of warrants.
“In the nine months since those changes were made, Ovo Energy has installed less than 10 prepayment meters under warrants as a last resort, and none were installed between September 2017 and February 2018.
Utility Warehouse comments on the news too, “We’re focused on protecting vulnerable customers, because its the right thing to do.
“If any of our members have trouble paying their bills, we off them a range of repayment options, including an interest-free repayment plan and a free of charge prepayment meter installation, We only ever install prepayment meters as a last resort – and we’ve seen a marked decrease in the number we’ve installed in the past 12 months.”
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