Warrant granted for energy firm to invade homes and force-fit prepayment meters

World News

New warrants have been granted to Scottish Power to allow the force-fitting of prepayment meters in homes where energy bills have been unpaid.

A district judge has given the energy company permission to fit these meters despite previous controversy over the force fittings.

Force fittings were stopped in March 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.

Almost 130 applications were made by Scottish Power at the Berkshire Magistrates Court in Reading on Thursday this week.

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 told the court that it had made “numerous attempts” to contact these customers through email, text, letters, and visiting the property.

District Judge Samuel Goozee granted all of the applications for a warrant to install meters.

Regulators have now drawn up a code of conduct that sets out what suppliers are required to do.

However, in each case, 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.

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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Customers must be given more chances to clear debts and forced meter fittings will be banned in homes with residents all aged over 75, in households with children under the age of two and if anyone lives there with a terminal illness or certain conditions which would get worse in a cold home, regulator Ofgem said.

All energy suppliers in England, Scotland and Wales have signed up to the code of conduct which sets out the practices they should adhere to when fitting the meters.

Under the rules, suppliers will now have to make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer and conduct a “site welfare visit” before a prepayment meter is installed. Representatives fitting them will also have to wear body cameras or audio equipment to make sure the rules are followed.

Campaigners want a total ban on the force-fitting of prepayment meters. Such a ban would need to be introduced by government ministers.

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said: “It is totally inappropriate for energy firms to be seeking to force their way into people’s homes to force them onto dangerous prepayment meters that leaves them at risk of disconnection and going without energy.”

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