8th January 2024
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is deeply concerned about the resumption of forced prepayment meter installations (PPMs), which has been announced by the energy regulator Ofgem this morning.
Energy suppliers use mandatory PPMs for certain customers who have built up debt.
The charity’s data reveals that demand for advice on fuel debt from the CAB network rose by 34 per cent from 2021/22 to 2022/23. Meanwhile, the average energy debt for individuals seeking complex debt advice across the network is £2,307 – up nearly £500 compared to the same time last year.
Analysis from CAS also found that more than 360,000 people in Scotland are worried about their debt to energy suppliers.
Responding to the news that suppliers can restart the forced installation of prepayment meters, Citizens Advice Scotland Social Justice spokesperson Emma Jackson said:
“Suppliers being given the green light for forced installations will add to significant worry people who are behind on their bills and in fuel debt already have.
“Data from across the Citizens Advice network sees demand for advice in fuel debt rising, which the average debt being £2,307. People find themselves in debt because costs are too high and incomes are too low. That’s why we urgently need to see a social tariff in the energy sector.
“For some PPM customers, energy is viewed as a luxury they can only afford in the first week or two of the month, and they then go without until the next payday. Our CAB advisers see firsthand the very real toll that going without energy has on people's physical and mental health.
“We need a permanent ban on mandatory PPMs, whether that is physically installing them in people’s homes or remote switching a smart meter.
“The current code of practice doesn’t go nearly far enough and is riddled with loopholes.
"The threshold which suppliers agree to not install meters is too high – for example households with children and many pensioners remain at risk from forced installations.
“Guidance needs to be understandable and clear so advice and advocacy bodies can achieve the right outcomes for consumers and suppliers understand their requirements.
“We have provided information to Ofgem to outline a number of concerns where more clarity is needed – it also means we can’t properly flag compliance concerns if we don’t understand the requirements.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Energy firms allowed to restart force-fitting meters - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-67910944
Ofgem’s rules ask suppliers not to force PPM installations on households with a child under two, or where all occupants are over 75, leaving many children and pensioners at risk: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/new-rules-installing-involuntary-prepayment-meters
Citizens Advice says a fifth of people are worried about energy debt - https://news.stv.tv/scotland/citizens-advice-says-a-fifth-of-people-are-worried-about-energy-debt