Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus meet new rules to install prepayment meters for recovering debt


Publication date

Industry sector

Supply and Retail Market

Licence type

  • Electricity Supply Licence
  • Gas Supplier Licence

Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus can now install prepayment meters to get back debt owed to them without a household’s permission. This is called ‘Involuntary PPM installation’ 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, for debt owed to them without permission from the customer.

Some people prefer to have a prepayment meter so that they can manage budgets and keep track of how much energy they are using. For energy suppliers, they can be an important way of managing debt, especially if other support such as offering payment plans or signposting to financial support have not worked out. It is important that suppliers can get back debt owed to them. If not, everyone’s bills will go up to pay for the debt that is owed.

Last year, we asked that these types of installations for paying back debt be paused. This was because of our concerns about the behaviour of suppliers installing them in households. During this time, we set out rules in our voluntary Code of Practice that all suppliers signed up to. The conditions set out in the Code have now been moved into the standard gas and electricity licences. All energy suppliers have to follow them.

The option to install a prepayment meter in households should only be considered if other ways to support customers, such as agreement to a repayment plan to help manage debt have not worked out. If you are struggling to pay your energy bill or think you will struggle, you should contact your energy supplier as soon possible to get support.

Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus are the first energy suppliers that have met our strict new conditions and are ready to start installing prepayment meters without the household’s permission after they chose to pause these types of installations last year.

Before installing a prepayment meter without permission

A supplier can only begin installing prepayment meters again without a household’s permission if the supplier’s Board has confirmed that the supplier has met the Code of Practice, conditions, and is ready to restart.

A supplier must:

  • plan how they will carry out the requirements in the Code of Practice
  • complete an independent assessment to check if they are ready to restart based on the new rules
  • complete an internal review to work out when prepayment meters have been involuntary 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

When a supplier has met the new conditions and begins to restart this type of installation, we will continue checking how they are being installed. We will check that suppliers are installing meters in a fair and responsible way and are following the new licence conditions.

Scottish Power, EDF and Octopus will still need to follow our strict rules before installing a prepayment meter without permission as a last resort. They 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 with an older occupant 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
  • assess customers who may be struggling to pay their energy bill where children under 5 years old live in the household, or people living in the household have:
    • other serious medical or health conditions, for example neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntingdon's or Cerebral palsy, nutritional issues, such as Malnutrition and mobility limiting conditions such as Osteoporosis, Muscular Dystrophy or Multiple Sclerosis
    • serious mental or developmental health conditions, for example clinical depression, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, learning disabilities and difficulties or Schizophrenia
    • temporary situations, such as pregnancy or bereavement

We are continuing to review supplier’s historic installations, which we refer to as the ‘Market Compliance Review’. Where we find that installations have been made unfairly, we will take compliance and enforcement action.

Help with prepayment meter installation

If your energy supplier is trying to move you onto a prepayment meter, read the rules they must follow in our prepayment meters consumer guidance.  You can also Check energy suppliers that can install prepayment meters without household permission.