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New protections from forced prepayment meters

A householder puts a card into a pre-payment electricity meter
8 November 2023

New Ofgem rules shield more households from forced prepayment meter installations and smart meter mode switches, with a specific focus on protecting those over 75 and families with young children.

From Wednesday 8 November 2023, new Ofgem rules will protect more households from having a prepayment meter installed in their home, or their smart meter switched to prepayment mode without their consent.

Prepayment meters require you to pay for electricity before using it. This can be challenging for those struggling with energy bills. 

Forced prepayment meter installations will also be banned for over 75s and those with young children.

For consumers, key benefits of the new regulations include:

  1. More households are protected from forced prepayment meter installs.
  2. Increased safeguards for households outside the “protected” category.
  3. Smart meter users get the same protections, so suppliers must comply with these regulations before remotely switching a smart meter into prepayment mode. 

At CSE, we’re hopeful these regulations will remove some of the barriers to the widespread adoption of smart meters, a crucial step in the UK’s transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.

Expanding protections

The new Ofgem regulations not only expand the scope of households protected from forced prepayment meter installations, but they also consider additional vulnerabilities that energy suppliers must take into account when deciding whether to enforce payment collection.

We’ve outlined the new rules below. If you suspect your supplier has broken these rules, we explain what to do too.

Simultaneously, Ofgem will be making the code of practice governing forced installations mandatory. This means that energy suppliers must adhere to the rules included in the code. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action and substantial fines for the supplier.

Other key conditions outlined in the code of practice will continue to be in place from November 8, including the requirement for energy suppliers to conduct a vulnerability and affordability assessment before fitting prepayment meters in specific households not covered in the expanded vulnerable group list.

Moving off prepayment meters

Under these new regulations, your energy supplier must also allow you to transition from a prepayment meter to a credit meter once you’ve cleared your debts and passed any required credit checks.

Here’s the new rules in detail:

Broadened protected category 

Suppliers must not install a prepayment meter* for: 

Suppliers must make a further assessment if any of the following apply: there are children aged 5 or under in the household, residents have other serious mental, developmental, or physical health conditions, or there is a temporary situation that makes residents vulnerable such as pregnancy or a recent bereavement.   

New steps suppliers must take before enforcing a prepayment meter 

The new rules stipulate that suppliers must:

*Ofgem states that “references to the installation or removal of an Involuntary Prepayment Meter include the switching of any Electricity Meter to or from such a mode.” I.e. that each of these rules also apply to smart switches.

What to do if your supplier doesn’t follow these rules

If you believe that your supplier has not followed these rules you should contact them and: 

  1. Raise a complaint. You need to make sure to get a complaint reference number and not let the customer service advisor close the complaint before the end of your call. After 56 days if the complaint hasn’t been resolved you can take it to the free Energy Ombudsman.
  2. Make sure your supplier knows all of your vulnerabilities, especially any of those listed above. Ask if you can be added to their priority service register.  
  3. Follow our advice for debt on prepayment meters or debt on standard meters.  

These new Ofgem regulations represent a significant step forward in protecting consumers from forced prepayment meters. They ensure that energy suppliers are held accountable and take into consideration the needs and vulnerabilities of their customers.

It’s important for consumers to be aware of their rights and, if necessary, to file complaints with the Ombudsman against any suppliers who disregard these essential rules.

This winter, millions of people will be unable to afford their energy bills or other essentials. At the Centre for Sustainable Energy, we’re working hard to provide energy advice to support more people to keep their homes warm. Please share this information with anyone you think it could help.

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