Sign the 38 Degrees petition to ban the violent force-fitting of prepayment meters for good! After the temporary ban was lifted last year, immediately, some companies were breaking the code, by applying for warrants against mums with newborns and young children, who they claimed not to know about. Only an outright ban will protect us all. Sign here.
In winter 2022, with the public outcry against the energy companies and Ofgem’s inaction, a ban on forced prepayment meters was brought in, but only temporarily until the weather was expected to get warmer.
The revised Ofgem code became compulsory for energy companies to abide by, in autumn 2023. But the press reported that energy companies were still applying for warrants against vulnerable customers supposed to be protected by the revised code, including a mum in Scotland with a six-week-old baby.
Disabled women in WinVisible spoke out and pursued a complaint against the mistreatment of those of us struggling with energy bills (see Express November 2022), and criticised the revised Ofgem code in April 2023.
Disability News Service reported: ‘The disabled women’s organisation WinVisible, a Disability Poverty Campaign Group member, said Ofgem should be doing more to force energy companies to safeguard “mothers with newborns, families with young children, sick and disabled people, pensioners and other low-income people” against forced PPMs.‘
You can still use the Ofgem code to resist force-fitting of prepayment meters. You can tell your supplier that the code says:
Before a prepayment meter can be involuntarily installed, energy suppliers must:
- make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer before a prepayment meter is installed
- carry out a site welfare visit before a prepayment meter is installed
- refrain from all involuntary installations for the highest risk customers including:
- households which require a continuous supply for health reasons, including dependence on powered medical equipment
- households where all occupants are aged 75 years and over (if there is no other 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
- This is not an exhaustive list, and you can try arguing your circumstances based on disability and ill-health, young children or older members of your household.
You can also apply for cash help from your energy supplier — see here.
Usually you will need to answer detailed questions about your income and debts, and agree to certain conditions in future. Citizens Advice operates the energy debt help scheme for at least two of the Big 6 energy companies. We are asking Citizens Advice to make their debt advice more tailored where they know someone is a disabled energy user, and to spell out our rights under the Ofgem code in their debt advice, instead of saying to people protected by the code, that they could have a force-fitted prepayment meter if they fall behind again.