Some relief for consumers with token prepayment meters


British GasLondon, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — December 1, 2006 – Some consumers in the U.K. who have token-based prepayment meters which have not been adjusted to take account of the higher energy tariffs in 2006 will benefit, as several utilities have agreed not to backdate bills.

Utilities EDF Energy and Scottish & Southern have already agreed not to charge consumers who have been paying too little for the energy they use – a significant amount in some cases, given that electric and gas tariffs have risen at least twice in 2006. Now British Gas has announced that it will not bill 150,000 poorer families who are using token prepayment meters.

These meters need to be manually adjusted whenever the cost of energy changes, and most utilities have not put measures in place to do this. When they announced that they would take steps to recover the money, these utilities faced severe criticism from consumer watchdog bodies and government MPs, who have now welcomed the decision by the three utilities not to backdate bills.

The cost of non-recovery is considerable – British Gas, for example, estimates that its decision will cost it £20 million (US$39 million). The utility plans to replace the token meters with electronic meters that can be re-set remotely, but this will take at least a year to accomplish. Now customers will only pay the increased rates once their meters have been changed.