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The UK government on Monday said that more than 94,000 prepayment meters had been forcibly installed in homes last year, as household energy bill debt soars to dangerous heights.
British Gas, Scottish Power and OVO Energy were named by the government as having forcibly installed the lion’s share of prepayment meters before regulators ordered a halt to the practice in February, describing the three utilities as “the most overzealous suppliers”. The government singled out Scottish Power as the “worst offender”, having installed over 24,000 prepayment meters to force pay-as-you-go energy for households.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an estimated 2 million English households have sunk into fuel poverty as of the end of 2022, the Guardian reports.
In February, the UK government ordered utilities to stop forced installations of prepayment meters, which would remain in place until new regulations were created.
“Today’s figures give a clear and horrifying picture of just how widespread the forced installation of prepayment meters had become, with last year seeing an average of over 7,500 force-fitted a month,” energy secretary Grant Snapps was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
“Prepayment meters are right for some people, so I do not want to ban them outright, but I do have concerns that companies have not been treating their customers fairly, over an already difficult winter during which the government has tried to help families by paying around half the energy bill of the average household,” he added.
According to the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem, household energy bill debt hit over $3 billion between July and September last year, a figure that represents a more than $1 billion increase since the beginning of 2021.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com