Energy suppliers have been told by Ofgem this week to pay compensation to customers wrongly forced to have prepayment meters.  Other customers may have the right to have their prepayment meters removed, even if they don’t get compensation.  We would like to hear from Benefits and Work readers if you have been affected by this growing scandal.

According to Ofgem rules, suppliers can’t legally force-fit a prepayment meter under warrant for people in very vulnerable situations if they don’t want one. Nor can they legally use warrants on people who would find the experience very traumatic.

Yet it has become increasingly clear that suppliers have been forcibly fitting meters unlawfully with virtually no scrutiny by courts, who simply took the suppliers word that all the necessary checks had been made.

To get a warrant, energy companies’ representatives swear an oath that they have complied with their supply licence.  This licence stipulates that they must not seek a warrant to enter the homes of vulnerable people in order to fit prepayment meters.

The Magistrates Association now says that energy companies “cannot be safely relied upon to ensure that those for whom warrants are sought are not vulnerable, but only that they are not known to be”.

In other words, magistrates now suspect that energy companies have not been bothering to check whether someone is vulnerable before forcing their way into their home.

People who count as vulnerable include those who have a physical or mental health condition which makes it hard to use a prepayment meter.  This could include problems with reaching the meter, reading the meter, adding credit or getting to a shop where they can buy credit.

People who have an illness that affects their breathing or which is made worse by being cold will also be classed as vulnerable, as will people who rely on medical equipment that needs electricity such as a stairlift or dialysis machine.

Nor can they use warrants on people who would find the experience very traumatic. 

There’s more information about this on the Citizens Advice website.

Energy suppliers have now been told to stop forcibly fitting meters until 31 March, when it is expected that new guidance will be issued.

But, according to a report in the Guardian, Ofgem has told energy suppliers they should uninstall prepayment meters that were wrongly forced on customers and pay compensation now, rather than wait for the new guidance.

You can find more about Ofgem’s rules on prepayment meters here.

If you agreed to a prepayment meter being installed you may have done so under duress, with threats to disconnect you.  Under these circumstances, if you are a vulnerable person, you can still ask for the meter to be replaced and may be entitled to compensation. 

Even if you agreed without duress, if it’s no longer safe and practical for you to use a prepayment meter, your supplier has to do one of the following:

  • move your meter to a place where you can get to it
  • replace your meter with a standard credit meter
  • adapt your meter or payments so they become safe and practical
  • arrange for you to pay in a different way

Let us know if you have been affected by this issue in the comments section below.

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    pip · 1 months ago
    Approx 10 years ago I had prepayment meters forcibly installed by Eon employees who broke into my house to do so. I was absolutely terrified and traumatised. When I worked out that was what was happening - initially thought was being burgled - I came downstairs and spoke with the invaders, one of whom shoved a warrant in my face. The awful debacle just the last straw, was clinically depressed at time, had young child I'd been left to care for alone by my ex partner along with massive mortgage. Had never previously fallen behind with payments on anything, but for short time experienced extreme emotional and financial difficulty. I said to the man what they were doing just made me want to kill myself, he even looked ashamed, but carried on nevertheless. I remember he made a call to someone - I assume from Eon noting 'client extremely distressed'. The invasion continued regardless. I was told I'd be charged over £1000 for installation of meters and that it already applied automatically to my unwanted prepayment meters, proportion of debt decided by Eon would be taken on every payment I make subsequently. 
    Was just so utterly traumatised, ashamed, embarrassed at time tried to forget about it. 

    I'm now angry, indignant and feel is my duty to call out the despicable practices of multi billion dollar conglomerates who criminalise poverty whilst actually having a great hand in creating it.
    I've complained to Eon regarding incident now countless times. Was first offered piffling £50 compensation, then £100, upon declining both, insisted yet again they provide written documentation and evidence they acted lawfully when breaking into my home.
    Since been told I'm due zero recompense as they state I was informed several times before invasion. Thus I asked for Subject Access Request proving such. I have been sent one, which goes back only to 2017, I've made it blatantly clear innumerable times the incident occurred over 10 years ago and that I require ALL previous data and records from when I became customer. 

    It's obvious their complaints handlers failing spectacularly. Any advice re my next move greatly appreciated. 
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    Lesley Ferguson · 1 months ago
    I had prepayment meter fitted in my home a year after moving in. They never once sent me bills, even phoning them and saying I hadn't had a quarterly bill. They said they couldn't find a reference to give me. Then suddenly they sent a bill for a very high amount for both gas and electric. They said they would install the meters and id pay by key for electricity and card by gas. My meter is under the stairs in a cupboard and gas meter outside. The shop sometimes wouldn't take the pay cards as it wasn't working. Then I'd need to go by bus to another shop. My health is bad osteoarthritis and asthma, my son has health problems too. I don't know how we managed. It was 10 on the meter they'd take a charge for the debt then the weekly charge would come off. It was between heating and eating. Less on food more on gas in winter. Struggled for 17 years , never wrote to say my bill was cleared just left me with the meters,no choice to have them removed. Could I claim compensation.?
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    Hayley Jones · 5 months ago
    ..yes. admittedly we fell into debt during a very difficult time..of which they was told, and we was given a date when they was switching our smart meters to payg and we have struggled since. My husband has breathing apparatus, an epilepsy seizure alarm and a stair lift. We are registered vulnerable with them.  Today..when i saw this thread..I confronted them and will be back on credit meters within 2 weeks..but we have had a few very cold weeks..
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    Jess · 8 months ago
    SSE (now OVO) obtained a warrant to fit a prepayment gas meter in a house 7 months after i sold the property! They are still chasing me for the costs and added these to a bill that has been passed to 4 different debt collectors to date. Funnily enough, these costs are recorded on the bill as a "transfer in" and as soon as i inform the debt collector that the debt is false and request an actual break down of what the balance is for and the billing period it refers too it gets sent/pulled back.. Wish i knew how to stop OVO soliciting debt collection companies to chase this as im sure they are being mislead  and im getting tired of sending the same info again and again.
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    Dongaargan · 8 months ago
    A friend of mine who is in a very vulnerable position trying to get by living on his own suffering various medical ailments has for the past months having to solely rely on the goodwill of his kind neighbours who have reached out and lent him a electricity extension lead into his flat sse electricity say they believe his previous meter had been tampered with and completely removed his pay as you go meter and left him with no electricity at all and ate asking he pay 2k in full no payment plan or anything which he cannot as he is on esa n pip 
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    Anmol S. · 11 months ago
    The energy suppliers have been breaching their Standard License Conditions by forcibly installing pre-payment meters and the OfGem ordered a couple of energy suppliers to make a compensation of £0.8m to their customers. However, it does seem that not many customers have received any redress or the customers have received a minimal redress. My understanding is millions of customers have been impacted by the malpractices of suppliers and the vulnerable customers are unlikely to have the resources to bring claims against multi-million pound turnover energy companies. I believe this calls for a large scale litigation like Collective Proceedings.     
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    Saira · 1 years ago
    My meter was ripped out and replaced with a pre-pay meter some years ago without my knowledge. I only found out after my electric supply cut out. It was an erroneous transfer (wrong customer/meter). Obviously the necessary checks were not carried out! I have to use a step-stool to put credit in, as it's over 7ft off the ground. And because it's the wrong meter, I cannot claim the energy vouchers, because they have my meter registered to a different flat. Stress has been immeasurable.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sash · 1 years ago
    I actually wanted a pre payment meter and asked at one point. I couldn't afford three monthly bills. So was behind. I was shocked to see a note behind my door that they had been with a warrant with out my knowledge broke in by taking the barrel out of the door. I left the place untidy.  I phoned and complained I wanted notice. But they said you might not have complied and stopped us gaining entry. Not true. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Daniel Lydon · 1 years ago
    I was forced to have pre payment meters after I got into debt because of life saving surgery. I had a payment plan in place,but due to having Brain surgery I could not meet the payments. (I had notified the company EON). Where do I claim compensation from? I have had the meters for nearly five years and can’t stand them. They have just put me massively behind and I am still paying it off. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Stacey · 1 years ago
    I had shell energy force entry on my property in June 2022 to fit prepayment meters due to a debt i had with green star energy who shell bought. I am a single mum of two who works part time. Ever since the meters have been installed I can't even afford to buy my children new school shoes when needed and have to watch what I buy for food to make sure I have enough for the electric. My son has chronic asthma, he has had several episodes this winter due to the freezing temperatures and not being able to heat the home as I can't afford £10+ a day on the gas on top of the £60 a week I use in electric. Every penny I receive from tax credits is used on fuel. I also suffer with depression and the whole experience was traumatic and has definitely affected my mental health due to the constant fininacial worry
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Marija · 1 years ago
    I called British Gas today seeking to decrease my Direct Debit (DD) as it almost doubled to £400. I am a single mum of a 4.5 year old, my mum lives with me, she is 64 and is my dependent as she does not get any benefits, and I am a full-time student as well. So I explained all that and asked to decrease my DD to £200. After listening to all that the BG employee says that he cannot then leave me on Direct Debit and I will have to go with the option of the prepayment meters to be installed. I went into total panic after this as this means we can end up in the cold house and asked what can I do to stay on DD at all then. He said I should pay BG today and then he could look whether he could leave me at DD at all or not and how much my DD would be. So I panicked and instructed to take £400 from my bank account as an extra payment just not to get cut off.  But thinking about it few hours after, I do feel being unjustly treated, threatened and sort of blackmailed into doing what BG wanted. I am in the overdraft now and accumulated even more stress. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Daniel · 1 years ago
    I was forced to have one of these an pay well over the odds to pay the debt back this was 10 years ago, since I have obviously been overpaying for my gas since an since the gas prices have gone up its gone from  10 pound a week to 40 and when I get 290 a month this is obviously unachievable so I'm sat freezing and in bed the same frozen 
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    Fran · 1 years ago
    Sse had a bailfif come here and had the police, it  was all so embarrassing and traumatised me, they even brought a dog handler as I had a dog. I've had to go freezing here too when I couldn't afford to put gas in. I've got videos of it on my phone. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Miss West · 1 years ago
    Yes, I was made to have both meters installed as I was struggling to pay the bill, due to being on benefits and having anxiety issues and ptsd. My gas meter, when fitted, was also capped, because I wasn't in when they come to fit it, so couldn't use the gas!!!!!!! This was done around 10 years about it was quite shocking as i felt bullied.
     
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    Samantha Turrell · 1 years ago
    My mother was made to open the door with an engineer and police under duress and threatened her they would force entry if she didn't open the door she had no clue what they were doing left her with a gas card that she had no way of topping up as was disabled on dialysis diabetic and her nearest and dearest out of the country she had no heating for 4 days

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Kirsty · 1 years ago
    I was with Ebico linked to RobinHood Energy they refused my payment method of bank to bank and then went bust. I heard nothing from the administrators but received a letter from British Gas reporting RobinHood Energy (not the administrators) transferred the energy bill to it and it was back billing concerning that matter. That was /is in breach of Ofgem Rules as the causation of the bill of was RobinHood Energy refusing my payment method. All documented by emails. British back bills from 2017 for energy it did not supply and seeks a warrant to change my meters to smart prepayment meters to use those meters to back bill and control my energy supply by remote access. Smart meters allows ANYONE to disconnect your energy supply by remote access. They will create health, fire safety and security issues of homes, especially of high rise and tower block flats. I have a CARE ALARM because I live on my own and have cognitive and mental health disabilities as well as complex health conditions (heart and brain related) but British Gas ignores this because it is been penalised by government if does not install smart meters. The high energy prices are been used as grounds to change meters to smart pre payment meters to energy firms can control your energy supply by remote access knowing this will create health, safety and security issues. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    rose skern · 1 years ago
    I am on Scottish Powers vulnerable list. This year they said my direct debit would be increasing to £590 monthly, no way I could pay that and I told them after paying you, my rent, I would have nothing left to buy food or house necessities like toilet paper. They told me I had no option but to go on prepayment meter or they would cut me off. I then received 6 emails i3 telling me it was switching on a date, then one saying no we are not doing. 3 times and last email was we’re not. Got up one Friday morning -7 in Scotland to no gas or electricity, I contacted my daughter and she was on the phone several times as they had given me no means to top up the meters, they tried remotely to get emergency credit which eventually worked next afternoon over 24hrs I had to stay in bed to keep warm. Daughter logged a complaint and she would get message saying they’re looking into it, then another saying as she hadn’t had contact they are taking that she’s happy and are closing complaint. She persevered eventually speaking to a gentlemen who was bit higher up, he said he didn’t believe what he was reading, my daughter enlightened him. He told as I was on vulnerable list. None of these things should have happened. He investigated and last week changed my meter back my monthly payment is £220 from £590 and he gave compensation at what he said was maximum amount of £100. If I hadn’t had my daughter I don’t know where I would have been. 
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    Veronica · 1 years ago
    I was being forced into having a prepaid meter under warrant security new iwas vulnerable ihave crohns ..osteoarthritis..fybromalagia ..and a herniated disc ..even after talking with a manager he said he could not cancel the warrant I was so stressed by this and luckily contacted fuel direct and the lady was really helpful I told her they advised I could not pay by fuel direct also as its on warrant I pay from my benefit at what I could afford that's my has at least sorted but the second were so arrogant lying to me and threatening I'd have my doors forcibly knocked down if I didn't pay in full ...absolutely disgusting behaviour one sales guy was actually laughing about my illnesses I told him I heard it all as he forgot to put me on hold he then hung up the phone ..I hope this does not happen anymore once these new laws are passed ..
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      Geraldine O'Connor · 1 years ago
      @Veronica Get in contact with you local MP. They have a legal duty to reply to you and the power to get the warrant ripped up. Also, every energy company has a Priority Services Register (PSR). You sound as if you would qualify for the PSR. This will give you added protection. Also, get in contact with Step Change who will help you sort out your debts. Also, get in contact with National Energy Action (charity). They are fantastic at helping people like us. You have the law on your side so keep calm and do all these things in the next few days.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Geraldine O'Connor · 1 years ago
    I am a pensioner in receipt of PIP. I have dual fuel with British Gas and have been on their Priority Services Register for years. British Gas knew that I was one of their vulnerable customers. They also know that I am going through Step Change to clear my debts. In October 3 Arvarto debt collectors arrived with a warrant. They didn't install a prepayment meter. As soon as they left I rang my local MP who contacted BG and got the warrant ripped up. BG read my meters in October and were meant to read them in January. Instead they sent me an estimate. My MP got them to read my meters in February but they still sent me an estimate so I've contacted my local MP again. They clearly want to trap me in debt. In one month I will complain to the Energy Ombudsman if they persist in their dirty tricks. 
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    Julie · 1 years ago
    I through I was one company but other have take me over .after I cancel it .their out me on per payment meter without after me first .I disable with arthritis and c.v.s which I was without electricity over wekkend
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