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Public back calls to ban energy prepayment meters

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Almost three-quarters of the public would back changes to the Energy Bill to ensure the Government can ban the forced transfer of homes onto prepayment meters (PPMs), according to new figures from the Warm This Winter campaign.

Half of the public believe there should be a permanent ban of the forced transfer of households onto prepayment meters to ensure they pay off their energy debts, with a further 23% backing a ban while energy bills stay high.

The Energy Bill currently makes no provision for a ban. This is despite almost two-thirds (62%) of the public being very or somewhat concerned by the PPMs scandal which rocked the energy industry earlier this year.

An investigation by the i paper revealed the extent to which energy firms were using the courts to gain warrants to enter people’s homes to force them onto PPMs. Throughout the investigation, energy firms assured campaigners, ministers, MPs and the media that these meters were not used on vulnerable customers. However, The Times undercover investigation into British Gas’ use of PPMs proved this was not the case.

Energy firms have recently signed up to a new voluntary code of conduct, designed to govern the forced installation of prepayment meters. This is due to come into force from 1 October 2023, but the End Fuel Poverty Coalition argues that the guidelines do not go far enough, failing to protect highly vulnerable groups and failing to help to tackle rising energy debt. 

Plans for an amendment to the Bill to ban forced PPMs are backed by the Warm This Winter campaign, which last week started a mass action to persuade MPs to support amendments that would help to improve Britain’s broken energy system.

Jonathan Bean from Fuel Poverty Action, which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said:

“We were promised no return to the bad old days of forced PPMs.  But there is a serious threat of more trauma and suffering this winter unless a permanent ban is put in place. MPs need to act now to protect their constituents.”

Eva Watkinson from Debt Justice said:

“Forcing people in debt onto pre-pay meters adds to the shame, stigma and trauma that they often experience. This disgusting practice must now be banned by the government and unpayable debts written off. ”

Tessa Khan from Uplift added:

“The Energy Bill is back in the House of Commons, but right now, it’s a missed opportunity to start fixing our broken energy system.”

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.