In some circumstances energy suppliers may be able to take steps to install prepayment meters even if you do not give permission. For example, this could happen if you have existing debt with them and they want you to pay it back. The supplier can then program the meter to deduct a portion of your credit when you top up, to pay off the debt. However, there are rules that your energy supplier must follow if they are thinking of doing this.
Energy suppliers must not force households with vulnerable people to switch to prepayment meters. This includes:
- Households which require a continuous supply for health reasons, including dependence on powered medical or equipment or keeping medication in a fridge
- Households where all occupants are 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 (for example, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cancer or organ failure) 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
Before installing a prepayment meter, energy suppliers must also:
- Make at least 10 attempts to contact you before installing a prepayment meter
- Carry out a ‘site welfare visit’ before a prepayment meter is installed
- Ensure that representatives carrying out involuntary prepayment meter installations or site welfare visits wear audio or body cameras. This helps the supplier to check for vulnerabilities in the household.
- Give a £30 credit per meter when carrying out an involuntary installation. This applies to each prepayment installed and also , in the case of smart meter customers that are switched remotely.
- Re-assess the case once you’ve repaid the debt. Suppliers must contact you to offer an assessment of whether a prepayment meter remains your most suitable and preferred payment method; if you wish to move off prepayment meter/s, your supplier must agree (providing you pass any required credit checks)
If you think your energy supplier is trying to force you into prepayment without following these rules you can make a complaint to them. You can find information about complaining to your energy supplier by visiting the Ofgem website.