‘Forced prepayment meter installation ban extended’ – Ofgem

Ofgem Bans Forced Prepayment Meter Installations for Vulnerable Groups

In a significant move to protect vulnerable consumers, Ofgem, the energy regulator, has introduced new rules prohibiting energy suppliers from forcibly installing prepayment meters (PPMs) in specific households. These regulations are aimed at safeguarding individuals over the age of 75 with no support in their homes and households containing children under the age of two.

Mandatory Code of Practice

Ofgem has made it mandatory for energy companies to adhere to a code of practice regarding the involuntary installation of PPMs. This code extends protection to the most vulnerable households, ensuring that they are not subjected to forced meter installations.

Background: Voluntary Code and Supplier Behavior

Prior to these regulatory changes, a voluntary code of practice was put in place in April, which all energy companies had signed up to. This decision was prompted by evidence of improper conduct by suppliers, causing hardship for struggling customers. Currently, no suppliers are conducting involuntary meter installations unless they meet strict criteria set by Ofgem, which would result in severe penalties.

New Rules Effective November 8

Effective November 8, the new rules dictate that suppliers must act fairly and responsibly when considering involuntary meter installations. Such installations should only be considered as a last resort, emphasizing the importance of treating customers fairly.

Neil Kenward on Protecting Vulnerable Households

Neil Kenward, director for strategy at Ofgem, emphasized the regulator’s commitment to protecting vulnerable consumers. He stated that these rules not only reinforce existing protections for those deemed most at risk but also extend safeguards to the most vulnerable households.

Monitoring and Enforcement

Ofgem will closely monitor suppliers’ behavior to ensure compliance with the new rules. Any violations of these rules could lead to enforcement action and substantial fines. These rules will be integrated into suppliers’ licence conditions, making them legally binding.

Expanding Protections for Winter

Initially, the prohibition on forced installations applied to customers aged 85 and over with no other support in their homes or households with residents facing severe health issues. This included terminal illnesses or medical dependencies on a warm home. Ofgem’s decision to lower the age limit to 75 and include homes with very young children aims to provide protection to a broader segment of the population, particularly in preparation for the upcoming winter months.

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