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23 May 2023

Expert Opinion: Permanent ban on prepayment meters now essential alongside new social energy tariff for vulnerable people

Expert Opinion: Permanent ban on prepayment meters now essential alongside new social energy tariff for vulnerable people

Community Housing Cymru’s policy and external affairs manager Hayley Macnamara calls for a permanent ban on forced pre-payment meter installation following the Senedd Petitions Committee’s investigation

Significant steps have been taken in recent months to address the shocking issue of forced installation of prepayment meters.

Last week the Senedd Petitions Committee held an investigation into the issue with leading energy firms, to outline major concerns and evaluate how this practice was able to take place.

During the hearing chairman Jack Sargeant MS said it was “nothing short of a national scandal for national suppliers to be forcibly installing prepayment meters (PPMs) in the homes of the most vulnerable” - and we couldn’t agree more.

Ofgem’s recent announcement that it would be implementing five suggested criteria to ensure the practice of forced pre-payment installations is handled more fairly - such as not targeting those over 85 and those with serious health conditions - was also a welcome move.

However, we feel measures need to go much further.

While forced installations now largely appear to have stopped, Community Housing Cymru is calling for a permanent ban to all forced prepayment meter installations.

Alongside that we believe that Ofgem and UK Government should introduce a new energy social tariff for vulnerable people, including those at risk of fuel poverty and housing association tenants.

CHC, along with our sister federations recently wrote to the Chancellor urging him to consider a social tariff for the energy market, which would be a discounted, targeted tariff aimed at those in greatest need.

These measures would offer a long-term solution for those most at risk, and allow them to access the energy they need without falling into further unaffordable debt at a time when the cost of living crisis has severely impacted housing association tenants.

Almost half of all Welsh social housing tenants use prepayment meters, some of which were forcibly installed. As a result, tenants across Wales are being forced to make heartbreaking decisions between whether to eat or heat their home, and we believe this is unacceptable.

Many social housing tenants rely on pre-payment meters to enable them to better manage their household budgets. However as we have previously reported, the surging cost of using pre-payment meters could exceed direct debit monthly bills making them less cost effective for vulnerable tenants long term.

Government figures reveal that over 94,000 prepayment meters were forcibly installed in homes under warrant last year without customer consent - on average over 7,500 meters a month.

At Community Housing Cymru we believe that a complete and permanent ban to forced installations is the only way to address this issue that affects thousands of lives.

We also continue to call for energy companies to prioritise the replacement of prepayment meters with smart meters when a tenant moves out to end this concerning cycle permanently.

It’s crucial that forced installations are permanently stopped and we look forward to hearing the outcome of the Senedd Petitions Committee.

Find out more about Community Housing Cymru’s work on pre-payment meters and forced installations in our Time to Act report.

For press or media queries please contact media@chcymru.org.uk