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Energy firms forcibly installed greater than 94,000 prepayment meters last 12 months | Personal Finance | Finance

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Energy firms forcibly installed greater than 94,000 prepayment meters in homes across Britain without customer consent last 12 months, Government figures show. Firms used court orders to force costly prepayment meters in 7,500 homes every month in 2022.

Three providers – British Gas, Scottish Power, and Ovo Energy – made up 70 per cent of the 66,187 devices fitted under warrant, based on data from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Prepayment meters are pay-as-you-go devices that require top-up payments to supply gas and electricity to a household. If payments aren’t made, no power is supplied.

The practice of forced installation was halted after it emerged that debt agents acting for British Gas had broken into vulnerable people’s homes to force-fit meters.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, began an investigation and now says it’s extending the ban on forced installations, which had been as a result of expire on Friday.

It says all forced installations will likely be suspended until energy corporations join to and comply with its recent code of practice.

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Grant Shapps, Energy Secretary, said the figures were “horrifying”.

Nonetheless, he didn’t back a blanket ban on prepayment meters.

He added: “Prepayment meters are right for some people. I don’t need to ban them outright, but I do have concerns that corporations haven’t been treating customers fairly.”

Scottish Power was the worst offender making an allowance for its customer base, fitting greater than 24,300 meters, followed by Ovo Energy with 16,867. Behind them was E.ON with 10,220, EDF with 7,240 and Shell with 4,145.

Utilita fitted 2,559, Bulb 2,091, followed by Utility Warehouse with 1,489, Tru Energy with 101, Ecotricity with 79, Good Energy with 58 and Octopus with 32.

BEIS said the suppliers’ data was received in January and February and was based on their best estimates at the moment.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, said recently the firm installed 20,469 prepayment meters under warrant in 2022.

Its boss, Chris O’Shea, was heavily criticised last week after it was reported he’ll receive a pay package price almost £4.5million for 2022.

Last month, one in every of the country’s most senior judges told courts in England and Wales to stop processing the warrants immediately.

And Ofgem has told corporations to revisit their past cases and offer redress, reminiscent of compensation, where the meters were wrongly installed and regulations not followed.

An Ofgem spokesperson said it was “reviewing all the principles, regulations and guidelines so as to strengthen consumer protection”.

Scottish Power said yesterday: “Affordability is a significant concern for patrons and our processes are tailored to take account of customer vulnerabilities and circumstances.

“We might not switch a customer to prepayment without advanced notice and installing a prepayment meter is all the time a final resort.”

All those energy firms mentioned were contacted for comment.

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