ENERGY firms face an Ofgem investigation over a “concerning” rise in the number of struggling households being forced onto prepayment meters.
The regulator said yesterday that it would also consider taking legal action if firms are found not to have taken due care when moving customers onto the more costly meters.
Customers who fail to keep the devices topped up with money have their electricity and gas cut off.
In recent months, hundreds of thousands of households have been switched onto prepayment metres, often unwillingly, after falling behind on their bills.
PRE-PAYMENT meters are forcing people to live in cold and damp homes, more than half of whom have poor health or disabilities, research by campaigners revealed today.
Some 64 per cent of customers on pre-payment meters are vulnerable, even before the predicted cold snap kicks in and increases energy bills, with 51 per cent having health conditions or disabilities, according to the figures collected by YouGov for the Warm This Winter campaign.
More than 10 per cent of customers on those meters have effectively self-disconnected by massively reducing their energy use.
More than 30 per cent of such customers now live in cold damp homes, more than the national average of 19 per cent.
Among the people on pre-payment meters and classified as vulnerable, 14 per cent are disconnecting and 36 per cent now living in a cold, damp home.
Publication of the research coincides with recent reports revealing that energy firms have secured almost 500,000 court warrants to instal pre-payment meters in the homes of customers in debt since the end of the coronavirus lockdown.