A new Code of Practice covering the forced installation of prepayment meters by energy suppliers has been welcomed by Consumer Scotland.
Published by industry regulator Ofgem, the code builds on current regulations, licence conditions and guidance to include greater protection for customers, though regular monitoring will be necessary to ensure compliance.
The code sets clear expectations of energy suppliers to protect all consumers, especially those in vulnerable circumstances, from involuntary installation of prepayment meters.
Ofgem will consult on the Code and expect energy suppliers to comply with it.
The new code follows evidence of consumer harm as a result of forced installation of prepayment meters.
This included Consumer Scotland research which highlighted disproportionate impacts on prepayment meter customers including struggling financially, finding it difficult to keep up with energy bills and cutting back on food.
Consumer Scotland chief executive Sam Ghibaldan said:
“We welcome the publication of the new Code of Practice and Ofgem’s proactive approach to bring together consumer bodies and energy suppliers to help develop it.
“Ofgem now needs to ensure suppliers comply with the new Code.
“We support a number of the enhanced protections outlined in the Code, including the precautionary principle, explicit reference to the installation of involuntary prepayment meters being a last resort, and assessments of financial vulnerability.
“The requirement that energy suppliers must make multiple attempts to contact customers by a range of methods, including a site welfare visit, and the protection of consumers with high risk characteristics, also offer important protection for consumers.
“The Code will also require suppliers to make it easier for consumers to change back to a credit meter once their debt has been cleared.
“The Code represents a significant step towards stronger consumer protection and we will continue to engage on further improving the service provided to prepayment meters customers, including through the use of smart meters.”
There are 421,000 households already using prepayment meters in Scotland, many of whom are in vulnerable circumstances and facing acute affordability challenges.
Established under the Consumer Scotland Act 2020, Consumer Scotland is a Non-Ministerial Office, independent from government and accountable to the Scottish Parliament.