Prepayment Meters: Vulnerable Households

Energy Security and Net Zero – in the House of Commons at on 28 November 2023.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Rochdale

If she will make an assessment of the impact of the mandatory code of practice for the involuntary installation of prepayment meters on vulnerable households.

Photo of Michael Shanks Michael Shanks Shadow Minister (Scotland)

If she will make an assessment of the impact of the mandatory code of practice for the involuntary installation of prepayment meters on vulnerable households.

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The Secretary of State and I met CEOs of energy suppliers recently. We emphasised that Ofgem’s new rules must be implemented and lead to improved protections for vulnerable consumers. We are working closely with Ofgem and the industry to ensure that that is the case.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Rochdale

The Minister will be aware that the ban on the involuntary installation of prepayment meters will be lifted soon. That will mean families with children over two years old and pensioners under 75 who are still vulnerable will potentially face the higher cost of prepayment meters. There is the possibility, of course, that when they run out of tokens they will be cut off. Is that right?

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

First of all, we have been mindful of ensuring that there is no higher cost to prepayment meters. We are mindful of the fact that prepayment meters have a place in certain households, because we are very sure that we must not increase debt. However, one reason why we scrutinised the process so carefully is to ensure that it does not impact negatively on vulnerable customers.

Photo of Michael Shanks Michael Shanks Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I thank the Minister for that answer, but what is it about the code of practice that means two-year-olds are vulnerable but three-year-olds are not? What is the difference between those households? Why has Scottish Power been able to go to court to obtain warrants to install prepayment meters forcibly before it has been able to demonstrate any compliance with the code? Is that not the wrong way around?

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Just for assurance, we have held conversations with Ofgem and suppliers to make sure no forced instalments have taken place yet. We are scrutinising the system to ensure that all vulnerable people are able to access the energy they need.