Energy suppliers can only install prepayment meters without permission if they have taken every step to check the household’s circumstances. The supplier must be sure that if they install a prepayment meter it meets the rules set out in their licence.
Installing prepayment meters without permission is called ‘Involuntary PPM’ in an energy supplier’s licence. It means that a prepayment meter can be installed with a warrant, or a smart meter switched to prepayment meter mode, to get back debt owed to them without permission from the customer.
Before installing a prepayment meter without permission
Last year, we asked that installing prepayment meters without a household’s permission for paying back debt be paused. Before suppliers can restart this type of installation, we check how they installed them in the past. These checks are part of our review called the ‘Market Compliance review’.
If we have concerns about how prepayment meters have been installed in the past, we will review this behaviour and take action. This could be enforcement action such as large fines.
The supplier must put things right before they can restart.
Rules suppliers must follow
The rules in gas and electricity licences say that suppliers must install prepayment meters to pay back debt in a fair and responsible way. Installation of prepayment meters for this reason should only be done as a last resort.
A supplier can only begin installing prepayment meters again without a household’s permission if the supplier’s board has confirmed to us that the supplier has followed the Code of Practice, has met all the conditions, and is ready to restart.
A supplier must:
- plan how they will carry out the requirements in the Code of Practice and completed an independent assessment to check if they are ready to restart based on the new rules
- complete an independent audit to work out when prepayment meters have been involuntarily installed when they should not have been, and offer compensation to those people, swapping their meter back to a non-prepayment payment method
- complete any important issues found in the checks made as part the Market Compliance Review
Energy suppliers who can install prepayment meters without permission
- EDF – restarted on 8 January 2024
- Octopus – restarted on 8 January 2024
- Scottish Power – restarted on 8 January 2024
After restarting involuntary installations
Energy suppliers must send us regular information so that we can monitor the way that they are installing prepayment meters without a household’s permission. This will help us spot any concerning trends. If we do have concerns, we will take action which could be enforcement action such as large fines.
If you’re not happy with your energy supplier, or you think they are not following our rules, read who to contact and how to complain about your energy supplier.
Support if you’re in debt
If you are struggling to pay your energy bills you should contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. You could also get a grant or other benefits depending on your situation. Find out how to get help if you cannot afford your energy bills.