Energy firms pre-payment response to Minister an insult to victims

Energy firms have only provided “half the picture” to the Secretary of State for Energy and Net Zero after the Government asked all suppliers to set out how they are supporting their customers, how many warrants to forcefully enter peoples’ homes they have applied for and how they will make up for any wrongdoing.

Data from the Warm This Winter campaign suggests that as many as two-thirds of pre-payment meter households will contain elderly people, young children or those with a disability or long term health condition.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented:

The energy firms are trying to pull the wool over our eyes yet again and have failed to comply with the Government’s reasonable demand for information and details of compensation they will offer wronged consumers. This is an insult to the victims of the pre-payment meters scandal.

The truth is that they have invested time, money and resources in securing almost a million court warrants against households since 2020. Even if only a fraction of those are enforced this is still too many.  [1]

Every one of those enforcements involves the energy firm breaking into someone’s home to impose on them a pre-payment meter which is more expensive for that household than direct debit. They will also charge the household for the installation.

Over the last three years, figures suggest that those on pre-payment meters may have paid hundreds of pounds more per household than other customers. [2]

Advice received by the Coalition has highlighted four areas where there might be reason for further compensation. These are in relation to possible breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights (articles 6 and 8), the Equality Act, trespass rules and breaches of contract / licence conditions. [3]

As well as compensation, campaigners have set out a five point plan which the Government must implement to address the pre-payment meter (PPM) scandal: 

  1. Move people off legacy PPMs more systematically (using data to identify PPM customers on the priority service register to move to faster smart meter rollout)
  2. Remove the premium paid by PPM and standard credit customers.
  3. Reduce standing charges for PPM customers.
  4. Address debt build up for PPM customers through a debt repayment matching scheme (funded through fines levied on energy firms for poor performance).
  5. Introduce wider reforms to make energy more affordable for PPM customers (such as introduction of a social tariff or free band of energy for all).

Calls for an inquiry into the scandal have also increased. 

In the House of Commons on Monday 6 February, Sir Robert Neill MP said that the scandal must indicate:

First, that the process itself is flawed and should not be continued and, secondly, that there must be an inquiry into not just the process itself, but the suitability of some of those who are representing the energy suppliers and Ofgem in court.

Either they gave misleading information by inadvertence or, potentially, they did so deliberately, which, on oath, amounts to perjury. That is a very serious matter which brings the court process into disrepute, and it needs to be investigated too.


[1] Official Ministry of Justice data revealed magistrates courts granted 920,855 warrants between Jan 2020 and Dec 2022 in England and Wales. Media reports suggest around 30,000 were granted in January 2023 in England and Wales. Media report 32,000 warrants were granted in Scotland in the first ten months of 2022.

[2] This winter every PPM household overpaid by £258 on average (Citizens Advice). PPM installation cost £150 (Ofgem). Equals basic overpayment of £408.

For households who have been on a PPM before October 2022, this basic level will increase based on how many years they have been on it, but someone who has been on a PPM since 2019, has over paid around £102 compared to a DD meter (winter 2019/20 £38, winter 2020/21 £28, winter 2021/22 £32). Total of £600

2019 is the starting point because that’s when Ofgem changed the rules to make PPMs much more expensive.

[3] Indicative advice received from Leigh Day Solicitors is not a formal legal opinion, but provided to help the Coalition discuss next steps in the campaign to help victims.