Strengthened UK regulations for pre-payment meters fall short, says Jack Sargeant MS
UK energy watchdog OFGEM has unveiled strengthened regulations surrounding energy suppliers’ use of pre-payment meters (PPM) however, Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant has said they don’t go far enough.
The changes, set to begin this November, are devised to shield vulnerable customers from undue hardships. However, critics have been swift to argue that the new measures don’t go far enough.
Under the new rules, energy companies will not be permitted to forcibly fit these meters in homes of individuals with significant health issues, those above the age of 75 without in-house support, or homes with toddlers under two.
These guidelines were crafted after British Gas, owned by Centrica, faced allegations in January.
It was claimed that third-party contractors, under court orders, intruded into vulnerable citizens’ residences to fit these devices amidst rising bills due to energy fluctuations.
In response to these accusations, OFGEM put a halt on all forcible installations, a move that British Gas warned might lead to increased bills for all households if they couldn’t stop customers from accumulating extensive debts.
Neil Kenward, OFGEM’s Director of Strategy, commented that the revamped rules would shield consumers from unethical practices and ensure that PPMs are utilised in a “fair and responsible manner”.
He also noted, “Pre-payment meters serve as a vital payment method assisting millions in managing their energy bills. However, they’re not an ideal fit for everyone.”
These enhanced guidelines showcase a more assertive approach compared to OFGEM’s voluntary code of practice from April.
Companies will be forbidden from forcibly installing prepayment meters for people over 75 years old with no support in their house and in homes with children under the age of two.
The new rules also dictate that suppliers must credit £30 to newly force-installed PPMs to avoid abrupt disconnections.
In addition, all enforced installations should be video documented. Companies failing to adhere to these regulations could face stringent actions and hefty fines.
Despite these reforms, criticisms linger. Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant, who chaired a Senedd inquiry into the PPM scandal expressed concerns.
He said: “Whilst I welcome the announcement of more protections for some of our most vulnerable residents this clearly does not go far enough.”
“This is a green light to restart forced installations in the homes of very vulnerable people.”
“This includes older residents classed by the World Health Organisation as being adversely impacted by colder homes, people with numerous chronic conditions and people with conditions like dementia.”
“How can this be right? As I have said before, this is a matter of life and death and OFGEMs first duty should be to these residents and not the energy suppliers maximising already huge profits.”
Also adding to the debate is Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
She voiced that the damage inflicted by the prepayment meter crisis must not reoccur.
Moriarty emphasised the critical nature of energy for children below five for their overall health and well-being.
She stressed that OFGEM’s recent decision falls short in preventing families with children aged five and under from being forcibly moved to a PPM, posing a risk that requires vigilant monitoring.
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