Forced PPM threats still a problem for vulnerable households

Energy companies are continuing to threaten households with warrants for entry to forcibly install prepayment meters (PPMs), despite a voluntary end to the practice coming into force in February 2023. 

BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours programme and the I newspaper has reported that energy firms who agreed to the voluntary ban are continuing to threaten households with forced installation. 

The forced installation of prepayment meters is especially a concern for vulnerable households, as changing to a PPM runs the risk of households having to suddenly stop using energy as the meter runs out of money, which can mean that these people will suffer the worst effects of living in cold damp homes during winter months. 

Desperate consumers have taken to social media asking for advice after they have continued to receive threats of court warrants for forced installation of prepayment  meters from their energy companies. 

Screenshots posted to an online group show email and post correspondence from debt collection firms and energy companies claiming that they will obtain a court warrant to forcibly enter their properties and install the meter. 

Many of the threats posted from energy companies are taken from emails and letters sent after the voluntary end to forced installation was imposed earlier in 2023. 

One woman based in Scotland complained that Scottish Power had failed to replace her faulty meter for three years, meaning that all of her readings during this time had been estimated. In screenshots of email correspondence, Conexus (employed by Scottish Power) insist that she must settle outstanding debt based on estimated readings or they will apply for a warrant of entry via the courts. The woman claims that the debt company has hounded her for some time and refused to discuss the matter with Scottish Power. 

Another couple who are vulnerable, receiving benefits and suffering from chronic health conditions, highlighted that their energy company OVO had failed to take their vulnerable status (and the fact that they are on the Priority Services Register) into account and had passed their case to a debt collection agency. This agency is now threatening to apply for a warrant for forcible installation of a prepayment meter in the couple’s home.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition commented:

“Energy firms are just not getting the message. The forced prepayment meters scandal should have been a wake up call as to how they treat their customers. But the evidence is mounting that this is not the case. It appears that they continue to threaten people with prepayment meters. This causes huge amounts of distress to often vulnerable households.

“It’s clear that the voluntary approach to banning forced prepayment meters is just not working and MPs must now act to bring in a legal ban to the practice through the Energy Bill.

“It’s no longer enough for MPs just to claim they support vulnerable customers. They need to take the action required to ban forced prepayment meters.”

Almost three-quarters of the public would back changes to the Energy Bill to ensure the Government introduces a legal ban to the forced transfer of homes onto PPMs, according to figures from the Warm This Winter campaign. 

An amendment to the Energy Bill has been tabled by Anne McLaughlin MP to bring in such a ban and the End Fuel Poverty Coalition urges all MPs to add their names to support amendments NC1 and NC2 during the committee stage of the legislation.

A recent investigation by the i paper found that in total over 13,000 warrants for entry have been issued by courts to energy firms since the voluntary end was introduced in February, with the Ministry of Justice unable to confirm why these warrants were granted.