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Ofgem is to review the checks and balances energy firms have around placing customers on pre-payment meters, warning it will take further legal action if it finds they are not taking due care.
In a blog, the watchdog’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, said he is concerned about the “sharp growth in households struggling to pay their bills being switched over to pre-payment meters, sometimes without their even knowing about it, leaving them without heating”.
It follows Business Secretary Grant Shapps’ demand over the weekend that energy suppliers stop forcing financially-stretched households to switch to pre-payment meters.
He also vowed to “name and shame” the worst offenders.
Mr Brearley said a review by the regulator last year of firms’ processes for dealing with the most vulnerable customers resulted in legal orders to improve and one company agreed to pay into Ofgem’s compensation fund, but he said the Business Secretary and Citizens Advice are “right to remain concerned”.
Mr Brearley wrote: “The numbers of forced installation of pre-payment meters is extremely high. It is simply not acceptable that vulnerable customers are left in the dark and cold in winter.
“Therefore, today, we will take forward a further, more detailed assessment to check whether plans have led to improvements.
“This review will focus specifically on self-disconnections, remote switching and forced installations, and the checks and balances companies have around any decision to put a customer on a pre-payment meter.
“If we find that they have not taken due care in this process, we will take further legal action against them.”
By City AM
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