Ofgem and Citizens Advice are launching a national evidence-call to ask energy customers to share their experiences of moving to a prepayment meter (PPM).
The eight-week partnership is a key part of Ofgem’s comprehensive market review of prepayment meters and remote switching, to ensure suppliers are meeting their legal obligations in protecting customers.
It is calling for the experiences of customers who either have had PPMs installed to recover unpaid bills or those actively choose to use pay-as-you-go to manage their budgets. There are approximately four million customers overall in Britain on prepayment meters.
The Market Compliance Review, launched in January, will enable Ofgem to take robust action against suppliers who have fallen short of the standards expected.
The feedback will also inform the ongoing investigation into British Gas’s potential breaches of licence linked to the forced installation of PPMs, which was launched in February.
It will supplement detailed evidence gathering of customers experiences direct from the independent Energy Ombudsman; Citizens Advice and consumer groups; and sampling customers from each supplier.
People can submit their experiences through an online form which is being hosted on Citizens Advice’s website and is open until Thursday 4 May 2023.
Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley said:
“We’re pleased to partner with Citizens’ Advice on the launch of this national evidence-call to ask energy customers to share their experiences of moving to a prepayment meter (PPM).
“We must work hand-in-glove with consumer groups to analyse and act on customer’s experiences, not only what suppliers tell us. We need customers to give us frank and candid feedback about their experience of being moved to prepayment meters – good or bad.
“Households are facing unprecedented rises in energy bills, forcing many into energy debt and putting them at risk of being forced onto PPMs.
“That’s why Ofgem has set up a detailed market review into PPMs to examine if suppliers are complying with their licence obligations and where needed to toughen up protection for all vulnerable customers.
“Our rules are clear that installing forced PPMs must be a last resort where all other options have been exhausted. We won’t hesitate to take tough enforcement action if we find suppliers have not followed the rules.”
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Force-fitting prepayment meters can have devastating consequences, as our report on the issue made clear earlier this year. We’re working with Ofgem to make sure people’s experiences are heard. Through sharing their experiences, people can help expose wrongdoing and help the regulator develop new protections so this never happens again.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Ofgem announced the next steps of its review of prepayment meters on 21 February 2023:
- the terms of reference of the urgent investigation into British Gas announced on 3 February
- the scope of the in-depth Market Compliance Review into the issue of how PPMs are handled across the market (see notes to editors), to include targeted engagement - facilitated through consumer groups and the Energy Ombudsman
- a call for all suppliers to use the current pause in PPM installations to proactively check if any have been installed incorrectly and, if so, to consider removing them and offering compensation where appropriate. Ofgem will be checking actions but has made clear that suppliers should not wait to act themselves
- the launch of urgent work with stakeholders to look at what further protections may be needed within the rules, regulations and guidance around PPMs and seek views on other measures that could reduce the need for PPMs to be installed or switched to remotely