Scottish power slammed as they secure warrants to force fit prepay meters into homes | Personal Finance | Finance

Scottish Power’s drive to force Prepayment Meters (PPMs) on customers has been labelled obscene by charities as its Madrid-based parent company Iberdrola posted profits of 3.4 billion Euros for the first nine months of 2023 today.

The provider has been granted 124 warrants for forcible PPMs in a move that has been condemned by Warm This Winter, a coalition of 40 UK charities.

Force fittings were stopped in March this year after agents were found to have broken into the homes of vulnerable people.

This is the first time suppliers have been allowed to force meters on households since the British Gas scandal was uncovered.

However, Scottish Power explained some customers had built up more than £2,000 worth of debt for their gas and electricity bills and the company.

Representatives of Scottish Power explained they had made “numerous attempts” to contact these customers through email, text, letters, and visiting the property before taking this issue to court.

Fiona Waters, spokesperson for Warm This Winter said: “It’s appalling that Scottish Power has been granted warrants to force their way into over a hundred homes, install prepayment meters and leave vulnerable people with just £30 credit when its parent company is making over three billion Euros in profits.

“It is frankly obscene that Scottish Power is deliberately going after people who are struggling with unaffordable energy bills through no fault of their own.”

To regulate the situation, Ofgem has now drawn up a code of conduct that sets out what suppliers are required to do.

Scottish Power vowed not to fit a meter if there was evidence when they entered the home that there was a high vulnerability risk in the household. In each case, £30 would be credited to the prepayment meter when it was fitted.

Jonathan Bean at Fuel Poverty Action commented: “We are horrified that Ofgem will allow Scottish Power and others to break into the homes of struggling families again this winter. Whilst people freeze because they cannot feed their meters, the executives and shareholders continue to enjoy big salaries and profits.”

As well as a total of 94,201 PPMs being forcibly installed in some of the UK’s poorest homes last year, over 350,000 smart meters have been switched to PPM mode in the past six years, forcing customers to pay more for their energy.

Pay-as-you-go customers spent around £250 more last winter than someone paying by direct debit and did not have the option to spread the cost across the year.

When someone can’t afford to top up the meter everything clicks off, regardless of whether they are old, ill, or have a newborn baby. The vast majority of people on smart prepayment meters are vulnerable, with over half having health conditions or disabilities.

Ofgem responded to calls to halt this with a temporary ban before introducing a mandatory code of practice protecting some of the most vulnerable households (mainly those aged over 75 and families with children aged under two.)

An Ofgem spokesperson told BBC: “Ofgem put a set of clear conditions in place, which suppliers must meet before they can restart the involuntary installation of prepayment meters.

“To date, no supplier has met those conditions and until they do no warrants to install a meter should be executed.

“We are aware that courts are running pilot schemes to test the application process for warrants. However, our expectation of suppliers is clear.”

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