Citizens Advice have found that 65% of clients who have been switched to pre-payment meters by their power supplier because of energy debts are either disabled or have a long-term health condition. This compared to 33% who have no disability or health problems.
Brian* had gotten behind with his payments to his power company and they were suggesting that he should go onto a pre-payment meter. Brian is in his 80s and lives alone. He said he was finding it hard to keep up with his expenses with all the price rises over the last year. He had heard that pre-payment meters could cause problems for some people, so he wanted to know what to do.
Our adviser asked Brian if his power supplier had offered to work with him to see what would be the best way forward for him. Brian said they had not contacted him about options, so the adviser told him that suppliers are required to work with customers to agree on payment plans they can afford.
Brian could ask for:
Brian thought that one or more of these options would probably solve his problem, but also wanted to know how a pre-payment meter would work.
The adviser explained that:
Brian asked what would happen if he ran out of credit and couldn’t get to the shops to top his card or key up?
The adviser said that suppliers must supply emergency support:
‘Just one more question’ said Brian ‘can they force me to have a pre-payment meter?’.
Suppliers must offer a range of ways to pay back a debt. A pre-payment meter is one option if it is safe, practical, and easy for a customer to use, but a supplier can only force-fit a pre-payment meter by court warrant after all reasonable steps have been taken to agree payment. It should be the last resort to avoid disconnection and can’t be used for people in vulnerable situations if they don’t want one.
Brian thanked the adviser for all the information about his options and said he would phone the supplier and work something out. The adviser offered to make an appointment for him to have a benefit check to see if there was anything else he could apply for.
*Name changed to preserve confidentiality
Citizens Advice provides confidential independent advice for everyone. Please contact us if you are uncertain about your rights.
CITIZENS ADVICE REIGATE AND BANSTEAD CONTACT DETAILS:
Phone Adviceline: 0808 278 7945 (free) to speak to an adviser (Monday –
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Email: Use an enquiry form at https://www.carbs.org.uk/get-advice/email-form/