London, UK — (METERING.COM) — August 16, 2006 – UK consumer champion energywatch and a coalition of charities and consumer organizations today called on energy suppliers to stop charging the poor more for gas and electricity, saying that people with prepayment meters are paying up to £173 (US$330) a year more for gas and up to £113 (US$215) more for electricity than quarterly billed (standard credit) consumers.
Since 2003 domestic gas prices in the country have risen by 87% and domestic electricity prices by nearly 56%. Millions of low-income consumers and fuel poor households use prepayment meters as a way to help them budget, but the coalition fears that increasing numbers of consumers will disconnect themselves in the coming winter because they will not have enough money to feed their meters.
In a letter to the Big Six suppliers the coalition says that while government energy efficiency measures may help low-income households in the long term, energy suppliers should take the lead now by equalizing all tariffs with standard credit tariffs. British Gas has equalized prepaid meter charges for gas only, while Scottish Power, EDF Energy and Powergen had equalized electricity charges, but none of the major suppliers has removed the higher tariffs on both gas and electricity.
There are nearly 6 million prepayment meters in use. 71% of gas and 50% of electricity prepayment meters are installed by suppliers to recover a debt. Almost one in four (23%) gas users is in debt, and the coalition is convinced that the suppliers’ pricing policies are helping to make the problem worse.