London, UK--- (METERING.COM) --- December 19, 2006 -
Several UK energy suppliers have responded to a call from the regulator, Ofgem, to prevent customers with token prepayment meters falling into arrears with their payments following energy price rises – an eventuality if there are delays in the supplier recalibrating the meter to register the new price.
The token meters are currently being phased out to be replaced by meters that can be recalibrated automatically. However, in the meantime some 1.3 million customers are still on the token meters, which have to be recalibrated manually, with the risk of delays.
EDF Energy and Scottish and Southern Energy already have policies to not charge increased rates until the meter is recalibrated. Following Ofgem’s approach, British Gas announced that from December 1 it will write off any debt built up through delayed recalibration. And now Npower, ScottishPower and Powergen also have made commitments to improve their response to customers while meters are replaced.
Their actions include:
- Accelerating plans to replace token meters with ‘smarter’ prepay meters and targeting replacement to customers who are most in need and have faced delays in getting meters recalibrated
- Writing off debts that build up in cases of hardship
- Being more proactive in contacting customers to get access to meters to recalibrate and offering help to those who may need it
- Not barring customers who have a debt on their meter from switching away to new suppliers.
Ofgem Chief Executive, Alistair Buchanan, said: “It is patently unfair that token meter customers should fall into debt through no fault of their own. Ofgem therefore demanded that npower, ScottishPower and Powergen follow the lead set by EDF, SSE and now British Gas to do more to prevent customers falling into arrears.
“We will watch developments closely, but customers themselves will be the ultimate judge of how well suppliers respond and should look to switch away if their supplier’s service doesn’t measure up.”
Ofgem has also introduced a provision in draft new supply licences that suppliers should recalibrate token meters in a timely way. The regulator has also proposed the requirement for companies to read meters every two years, which has been cited as a barrier to the introduction of smart meters.