Energy firms banned from installing forced prepayment metres to over 85’s under new Ofgem rules
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Energy firms have been banned from forcibly installing prepayment energy meters in the homes of customers over 85s under new Ofgem rules. Suppliers will also have to contact a customer at least ten times and conduct a "site welfare visit" before forcibly conducting the installation, new guidelines will say.
The new rules come after debt agents for British Gas broke into some people’s homes to fit metres, sparking a public outcry. Ofgem’s new code of practice will outright ban forcibly installing prepayment metres in the homes of people with terminal illnesses and those aged 85 and older who do not have someone else living in the home to care for them.
Energy company workers will also have to record sound or wear a body camera to make sure new energy regulator rules are being adhered to. People with a health condition that would be worsened by living in a cold home - such as emphysema and sickle cell disease - will also be protected from forced installation, as will people who require a continuous supply of electricity for medical equipment.
Under existing rules, energy meters are not to be installed in the homes of vulnerable customers. But an investigation by The Times newspaper found debt collectors working for British Gas had forced their way into the homes of vulnerable customers.
The head of British Gas parent company Centrica apologised on Sky News after the report was revealed and the rules around prepayment meters have been revised in consultation with the government, stakeholders and industry after the scandal emerged.
Earlier this year Ofgem asked suppliers such as British Gas to temporarily suspend the practice of forced installation and review their processes for dealing with customers who have fallen into arrears.
Prepayment meters are pay-as-you-go devices that need top-up payments to provide gas and electricity to a home. Energy providers install the meters for customers who are in debt to avoid them amassing higher bills. But if payments are not made, no power is supplied.
To prevent households being without power, £30 credit will be given under the new rules. Official figures showed more than 94,000 meters were installed in homes in Britain throughout 2022.