The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Grant Shapps, has launched a crackdown on energy suppliers following a sharp increase in the number of prepayment meters being fitted in households struggling to pay energy bills.
Instead the Business Secretary would like to see other action taken such as debt forgiveness, additional credit and debt advice. The letter also demands suppliers share the number of warrants they have applied for to name and shame the worst offenders.
Ofgem rules state that forced prepayment meter switching should only ever be a last resort. The letter highlights the overwhelming number of applications for meter installation courts are facing. The Secretary of State notes that large batches of applications are being approved in minutes and that it is hard to believe that all other avenues have been exhausted prior to this.
The Minister for Energy and Climate, Graham Stuart, has also asked energy suppliers, Ofgem, Energy UK and Citizens Advice to meet with him at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to discuss matters further next week.
The 5-point plan to tackle bad behaviour by energy suppliers comprises the following actions:
- A call for suppliers to voluntarily stop the practice of forced prepayment switching as the answer to households struggling to pay bills and make greater effort to help the most vulnerable.
- Request of the release of supplier data on the number of warrant applications they have made to forcibly enter homes to install meters.
- Urgent publication of a list of supplier redemption rates for the Energy Bills Support Scheme vouchers – showing who is meeting their responsibilities and who needs to do more.
- The launch of a government public information campaign reminding and informing eligible consumers to redeem their Energy Bills Support Scheme vouchers and how to do so. This will be through both advertising and direct communication channels, targeting the most vulnerable and those most likely not to have redeemed vouchers.
- Coordination with Ofgem ensure they take a more robust approach to the protection of vulnerable customers and conduct a review to make sure suppliers are complying with rules.