Following Ofgem’s decision to pause mandatory installation of prepayment meters (PPMs) and forced switching of smart meters in early 2023, the energy regulator published a short call for evidence on prepayment meter rules and protections.
StepChange’s submission highlighted that the proportion of clients with energy debts has significantly increased in recent years and that 24% of clients have a PPM. The charity is concerned that such clients can have poor customer journeys with energy suppliers, experience intrusive enforcement action and are often unable to maintain reasonable minimum energy usage.
StepChange called on Ofgem to work with the government to:
- Take immediate steps to support PPM customers, including pausing debt collection from existing PPMs (except with the consent of a customer) and directing firms to offer redress to people wrongly put on PPMs.
- Ban the installation of legacy PPMs and significantly tighten restrictions on the mandatory installation of smart meters and forced switching to PPM mode.
- Increase the assistance available to customer struggling with energy costs to prevent arrears arising and to support those with energy arrears they cannot afford to repay. This should include an expansion of emergency vouchers, non-repayable credit and debt holidays.
In the longer term, StepChange has called on Ofgem and the government to work with stakeholders to develop better solutions to ensure energy is affordable to all households, including a social tariff, and recover energy debt without putting customers’ health and wellbeing at risk.