Pre-payment meters 'putting families at risk of being disconnected'

Scotland's Children's Commissioner has urged Ofgem to take a tougher line with energy companies.

Ofgem urged to ban compulsory pre-payment meters by Scottish Children’s Commissioner iStock

Calls to ban the compulsory installation of pre-payment meters due to the impact it has on struggling families have been made by Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner.

Bruce Adamson is urging Ofgem to take a tougher line with energy companies.

He said energy suppliers also need to do more to identify vulnerable households and provide them with support.

In a letter to the regulator, the commissioner said pre-payment meters put struggling families at severe risk of being disconnected.

Ofgem’s recent market compliance review identified weaknesses in energy companies’ practices, including failing to identify vulnerabilities before pre-payment meters are installed.

Mr Adamson wrote: “I welcome the compliance review, and your intervention on pre-payment meters, but in light of the escalating risk to children’s rights to life, health and development, I do not think they go far enough.

“Nor do I think it is sufficient to address these matters at the level of individual cases or even suppliers.

“Ofgem needs to take a more active regulatory approach, rather than a watching brief.”

Ending his letter, the commissioner urged Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley to amend the threshold for the priority services register from children under five to under 18.

An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Protecting consumers is our top priority and as part of our role, we have banned installations entirely for the most vulnerable customers. This includes, for example, prohibiting charges for people in severe financial difficulty, and banning installations entirely for people for whom the experience would be severely traumatic, such as those with severe mental health issues.

“We assess all forms of intelligence provided to us around how suppliers treat customers on prepayment meters, and will continue to take enforcement action where it is needed.

“We can confirm receipt of the letter from Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner and will respond in within 14 days.”

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