Energy Regulator Proposes Compulsory Protections for Vulnerable Households with Prepayment Meters

Energy Regulator Proposes Compulsory Protections for Vulnerable Households with Prepayment Meters

…By Henry George for TDPel Media.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, has launched proposals to make voluntary rules that protect struggling households with prepayment meters mandatory.

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Ofgem intends to initiate a consultation to enforce these protections as a compulsory part of suppliers’ license conditions.

The move comes in response to incidents where energy suppliers, including British Gas, unlawfully entered the homes of individuals facing bill payment difficulties to install prepayment meters against their will.

Following public exposure of these practices, Ofgem commenced an investigation.

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Voluntary Code of Practice and Proposed Enhancements

In May, Ofgem introduced a voluntary code of practice that prohibited the forcible installation of prepayment meters in homes of individuals aged 85 and above.

The code also mandated energy suppliers and their contractors to make at least 10 attempts to contact customers and conduct a site welfare visit before considering meter installation.

Ofgem seeks to transform these voluntary arrangements into binding obligations and invites public feedback through a statutory consultation.

Benefits of Compulsory Protections and Additional Support Credit

Ofgem asserts that the proposed regulations will benefit consumers by requiring energy suppliers to adhere to a more rigorous process when assessing the necessity of forcibly installing prepayment meters.

Additionally, suppliers will be expected to provide a higher standard of aftercare support.

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These measures aim to alleviate pressure on the National Health Service (NHS) by enabling households to afford heating and prepare hot meals.

Ofgem also proposes compensating suppliers for the cost of additional support credit (ASC), a form of credit offered to the most vulnerable prepayment meter customers.

ASC assists these customers during times of heightened financial difficulty, reducing the risk of self-disconnection.

Consultation Process and Timeline

Ofgem’s consultation on the code of conduct will accept responses until July 26.

The regulator anticipates reaching a decision and publishing the outcome by winter of this year.

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The proposed changes aim to ensure robust protections for vulnerable customers, enhance the assessment process for prepayment meter installation, and promote adequate aftercare support.

By making the rules compulsory, Ofgem intends to create a more regulated and accountable system, ultimately benefiting households in need.

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