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New prepayment meter guidelines explained

We may be worried about being forced on to a prepayment meter. But there are some protections in place

The guidance around prepayment meters has changed, making it a bit harder for suppliers to fit one against our wishes.

Some customers like having a prepayment meter because it means they can’t get into fuel debt. But in the past it was more expensive and many other customers didn’t want one but were forced to switch over by their supplier.

Now however, we should be given more of a chance to clear our debts before being forced over. 

Our supplier should try to contact us at least 10 times before forcing us to change. And no one over the age of 85 should have a prepayment meter fitted against their will.

But critics say the move by the regulator Ofgem hasn’t gone far enough.

How to prevent a forced fitting

If we we’ve been struggling with our energy bills and we’re worried about being forced on to a prepayment meter, we should speak to our supplier in the first instance.

Forcing customers on to prepayment has become more common since energy prices started to rocket.

If we were struggling with our bills, suppliers could get a warrant to get inside our home. Or if we have a smart meter they may be able to switch us remotely. 

Some customers said they were shocked and upset to have been switched over without their permission. The practice was then paused for a time over winter.

But the new guidelines outline some situations where suppliers should not fit meters without permission. There are also other situations where energy suppliers are meant to think carefully before making the customer switch.

Check our situation

We should check if we’re in any of these vulnerable situations – and let our supplier know.

  • Aged over 85
  • Anyone with a terminal illness
  • People with chronic conditions like bronchitis, emphysema or sickle cell disease
  • People who need a constant power supply to protect their health
  • Anyone who is not able to top up a prepayment meter

Other conditions mean we might be medium risk. This means suppliers can still force us on to a prepayment meter, but must do extra risk checks before doing so.

  • Aged between 75 and 84
  • Anyone who has a child under 5
  • Pregnant women
  • People with Alzheimer’s disease

But everyone’s situation is different and if we feel we would struggle with a prepayment meter we should explain why to our supplier.

They need this information about us anyway, because it may mean we can be placed on their Priority Services Register. This means we’ll get extra support in a variety of ways, including in an emergency or during a planned power cut.

Other things to know

If we are forced on to a prepayment meter we are entitled to £30 of credit to cut the risk of us losing supply.

And if it happened to us in the past and we feel it was unfair, we can now appeal to our supplier to be switched back. We may also get compensation.

If we’ve paid back what we owe, we can ask that our case is reconsidered. We could then be moved back on to our previous payment method.

Main image: Smart Meters GB

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