Ofgem’s new rules could harm the people they’re supposed to help

Is this an example of a well-intentioned scheme backfiring, or of an ill-intentioned plan doing exactly what it’s supposed to?

In response to a backlash after it was discovered that employees of some energy suppliers, including British Gas, had been breaking into the homes of people who had been defaulting on their bill payments to forcibly install pre-payment meters, the regulator Ofgem has imposed new rules.

Energy firms have agreed to the voluntary code. It includes a ban on forcibly installing prepayment meters in the homes of people over the age of 85.

Companies will only be able to force the change if they stick to a set of voluntary restrictions and must make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer.

They must also carry out a site welfare visit before a such a meter can be installed and will need to avoid forced installations where a “continuous supply” of energy is needed for health reasons, such as for the terminally ill.

Energy firms will also be required to make representatives fitting meters wear body cameras or audio equipment.

But some have warned that the new rules aren’t good enough:

It seems Ofgem has not taken account of the fact that 29 per cent of households are now in debt to their energy supplier.

Critics say the regulator had an opportunity to introduce targeted debt relief for those who are most in need of it – but didn’t.

Nor has Ofgem considered the energy needs of people with disabilities or health conditions in its definition of the kind of vulnerability that would make a bill-payer exempt from having a pre-payment meter in any circumstances, it seems.

There is also the question of how people will prove their medical conditions without being humiliated by an energy firm health inspection.

Ofgem has said it will consult on whether the new code of practice can be made legally binding before the winter.

Labour seems to be in two minds about the situation. According to the Morning Star article mentioned above, Ed Miliband said Ofgem’s scheme was “not good enough”.

But Jonathan Ashworth seemed to have a different opinion:

Worse than that, the changes may mean energy bills increase – to cover their own cost:

How can that be, in any way, fair?

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2 thoughts on “Ofgem’s new rules could harm the people they’re supposed to help

  1. Debbie Wiles

    So, I chose to have a prepayment meter, so that I wouldn’t end up not being able to pay huge bills. Until this month, I was penalised for that by paying a higher standing charge. Now I, and millions of others, are going to be charged for other people’s inability to pay? Why doesn’t that cost come out of the energy company’s obscene profits?

    When will we get rid of the dependence on fossil fuels, and all pay a lower rate with purely renewables? I guess that won’t happen until everyone demands it (I do every chance I get).

  2. Paul Billanie

    My uncle was forced onto prepayment meter last year despite having a CPAP machine at night

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