Ofgem has given three energy suppliers permission to restart forcible entry to people’s homes to install prepayment meters after the practice was banned last February. The fact that forcible entry has been restarted at the coldest time of year says a great deal about the degree to which Ofgem is prepared to protect customers.
The widespread practice of forcibly installing prepayment meters was stopped after it was shown that suppliers were ignoring rules relating to vulnerable customers.
However, Ofgem has now drawn up new conditions before companies can restart forced installations and has decided that EDF, Octopus and Scottish Power meet their requirements.
Before making a forced installation, suppliers must make at least 10 attempts to contact the customer and carry out a site welfare visit before a prepayment meter is installed.
High risk customers must not have a prepayment meter forced on them. This includes:
- Households which require a continuous supply for health reasons, including dependence on powered medical equipment
- Households with an older occupant (aged 75+), without support in the house
- Households with children aged under 2 years old
- Households with residents with severe health issues including terminal illnesses or those with a medical dependency on a warm home (for example due to illness such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sickle cell disease)
- Where there is no one within the household that has the ability to top up the meter due to physical or mental incapacity.
In other cases suppliers must, before making a decision, take into account:
- Age: Children 5 and under
- Other serious medical/Health Conditions (such as neurological diseases (Parkinson’s, Huntingdon’s
- Cerebral Palsy), respiratory conditions (COPD) and mobility limiting conditions (Osteoporosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis)
- Serious mental/developmental health conditions (such as clinical depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, learning difficulties, Schizophrenia)
- Temporary situations (such as pregnancy, bereavement).
Suppliers have to wear a bodycam when carrying out a site welfare visit and when forcibly installing meters.
They must also provide £30 credit when the prepayment meter is installed, so that the customer does not immediately face having no power.
Once any debts have been paid off, the case for continuing with a prepayment meter must be reconsidered.