The trouble with prepayment meters …


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — June 29, 2007 – Ofgem’s call for low income U.K. consumers using prepayment meters to take action and switch to cheaper suppliers of gas and electricity is to be welcomed, but action is also necessary from industry to make prepayment meters fairer and easier to switch away from, gas and electricity watchdog energywatch has said.
energywatch said it received thousands of calls from prepayment meter users last year, with many complaining of:

  • Higher prices than those on other payment methods despite paying up front for their energy
  • Missing out on the price cuts being offered to other consumers
  • Getting little or no benefit from taking both gas and electricity from the same supplier
  • Being unable to switch online because companies don’t offer prepay meter tariffs through the switching sites
  • Being blocked from switching because of small amounts of debt
  • Being put into debt because their supplier had failed to reset the meter after recent price rises
  • Being charged upwards of £100 to have their prepayment meter removed and a standard credit meter installed, and
  • Being left without gas or electricity as a result of shoddy customer service if their prepay meter key/card is damaged or lost.

Adam Scorer, Director of Campaigns at energywatch, commented: “The trouble with prepayment meters is that although they allow users to manage their expenditure, they come at such a high premium that the disadvantages can outweigh the benefits.”
Recent research from energywatch indicates that:

  • Fewer than half of prepayment meter users have the meters because it helps them control how much they spend on energy
  • One in five prepayment meter users inherited the meter when they moved into their property
  • Almost half of prepayment meter users believe they are paying the same or less than consumers on other payment methods, and
  • Almost half of prepayment meter users sometimes find themselves running out of credit and being left using emergency credit or without energy.

Figures obtained from the industry show that more than 250,000 prepayment meters were installed by suppliers last year as a means of recovering debt, said Scorer. “For far too many consumers prepayment meters are not a matter of choice but of necessity. That means they need extra protection and fairer prices and service from suppliers.”