British Gas halts use of warrants to force people on to prepayment meters

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Image of banknotes and prepayment meter key
Banknotes and a prepayment meter key

Move follows allegations that third-party agents ignored vulnerabilities of customers and broke in to install equipment

British Gas has suspended the use of court warrants to force the installation of prepayment meters after evidence that agents working on its behalf ignored customers’ vulnerabilities.

MPs and consumer groups had raised concerns that elderly and disabled people were being forced on to prepayment meters and then routinely cut off from heat and power as they could not afford to top up.

Wednesday’s decision came after an investigation by the Times alleged that Arvato Financial Solutions, a company used by British Gas to pursue debts, had broken into homes to fit meters when there were signs that young children and people with disabilities lived in the property. AFS employees are incentivised with bonuses to fit prepayment meters.

Ofgem statement on British Gas prepayment meter installations

“These are extremely serious allegations from The Times. We are launching an urgent investigation into British Gas and we won’t hesitate to take firm enforcement action.

“It is unacceptable for any supplier to impose forced installations on vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills before all other options have been exhausted and without carrying out thorough checks to ensure it is safe and practicable to do so.

“We have launched a major market-wide review investigating the rapid growth in prepayment meter installations and potential breaches of licences driving it.

“We are clear that suppliers must work hard to look after their customers at this time, especially those who are vulnerable. The energy crisis is no excuse for unacceptable behaviour towards any customer, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances.”

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