British Gas has been accused of putting pre-paid energy meters on vulnerable households

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Unlike traditional meters, which record energy consumption, which the customer is then required to pay for, those with these prepaid devices must pay in advance to have gas or electricity at home

Britain’s energy regulator, Ofgem, announced today that it is investigating British Gas, accused of forcibly installing pre-paid energy meters in the homes of vulnerable consumers who were unable to pay their bills due to price spikes.

On the occasion of this investigation the Minister of Energy Grant Shapps called on all energy providers to stop this practice.

The Times revealed today that a debt collection firm acting on behalf of British Gas sent employees to install pre-paid meters in the homes of vulnerable people.

Unlike traditional meters, which record energy consumption, which the customer is then required to pay for, those with these prepaid devices must pay up front to continue to have access to gas or electricity. When their consumption covers the amount they prepaid, their supply stops.

In the middle of winter and with energy prices skyrocketing, many vulnerable households who could no longer pay their bills were forced by their provider to be fitted with such devices.

And some had their heating cut off because they didn’t have the money to charge the meters.

The newspaper article states that such meters were forcibly installed in the home of a single father of three, a 50-year-old woman with bipolar disorder and a mother whose child uses a wheelchair.

Employees of Arvato, the debt collection company infiltrated by a reporter, were getting bonuses for installing the prepaid meters.

These meters are legal, provided they are not placed in the homes of vulnerable people (small children, pregnant women, disabled people, etc.). The energy regulator has “brought order” to providers, reminding them that they have a duty to check the status of their customers. “These allegations are very serious (…) and we will not hesitate to take action,” Ofgem warned, announcing it was launching an investigation into British Gas.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the practice “alarming and deeply shocking”.

Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has announced for its part that it is ending mandatory installations of such meters “until at least the end of February”. Its chairman and chief executive, Chris O’Shea, said Arvato’s behavior was “unacceptable” but also called for a way to distinguish those who can’t pay from those who don’t want to.

Labor MP Ed Miliband, who is responsible for energy, called on the government to ban the mandatory installation of pre-paid meters in households this year.

RES-EMP

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