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Britain’s vitality regulator has launched more durable curbs round suppliers’ use of pre-payment meters below new guidelines geared toward defending susceptible prospects.
Ofgem mentioned on Wednesday that, from November, vitality firms wouldn’t be allowed to forcibly match the units within the properties of individuals with extreme well being issues, these aged over 75 with out home assist, or with kids below the age of two.
The transfer follows criticism of Centrica-owned British Fuel in January over allegations that third-party contractors broke into susceptible folks’s properties below court docket warrant to put in the units as payments soared within the wake of the energy shock.
Following the allegations, Ofgem imposed an industry-wide moratorium on forcible installations, regardless of warnings from British Fuel that all households would face higher bills if suppliers couldn’t forestall struggling prospects from operating up giant money owed.
Neil Kenward, Ofgem’s director of technique, mentioned the brand new guidelines would “present safety from unhealthy practices” and make it possible for pre-payment meters have been utilized by suppliers in a “honest and accountable manner”.
“Pre-payment meters are an vital fee methodology that assist thousands and thousands of households to handle their vitality payments. However they don’t seem to be appropriate for everybody,” he added.
The brand new guidelines mark a more durable stance from Ofgem in contrast with April, when it initially set out a new voluntary code of practice. Now necessary, the code has lowered the higher age restrict to 75 from 85, as first envisaged.
Underneath the brand new guidelines, suppliers can even have so as to add £30 credit score to new force-fitted pre-payment meters to keep away from sudden disconnection, and preserve video recordings of all forcible installations.
If vitality firms don’t adjust to the brand new guidelines, they face “enforcement motion and substantial fines”, mentioned Ofgem.
The watchdog’s announcement got here as Jonathan Brearley, chief govt, warned that some households confronted even steeper vitality payments this winter than final.
The vitality worth cap — which dictates payments for greater than 23mn households and supplies an estimate primarily based on common annual utilization — is ready to fall from a report £4,279 in January to £1,923 in October, on the again of drops in wholesale gasoline costs.
However Brearley advised MPs on Wednesday that as a result of the extent of presidency assist for households had additionally fallen for the reason that begin of this yr, “for many individuals their payments might be very comparable this yr, and presumably worse for some”.
When the brand new worth cap was introduced final month, the federal government identified that low-income households have been persevering with to obtain assist in direction of the cost of living, together with £900 paid in three instalments.
Dame Clare Moriarty, chief govt of Residents Recommendation, a charity, mentioned Ofgem’s announcement on tighter restrictions didn’t go far sufficient to “cease all households with kids below 5 from being compelled on to a pre-payment meter”.
“As we head into what might be one more extremely troublesome winter for a lot of, it’s important suppliers make sure that none of their susceptible prospects are compelled on to a pre-payment meter,” she added.