Ofgem to ban forced pre-pay meters - but only for over 85s

2

Comments

  • Chrysalis
    Chrysalis Posts: 4,106
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    edited 18 April 2023 at 3:44PM
    From what I can find online and there is no solid data, it does seem that this change would effect no more than a few hundred people a year, possibly fewer. Some older people may have issues paying their bills, but they also get pensions, pension credit if on low income, winter fuel payments and other payments on top depending on circumstances, they also do not generally fall into the groups who refuse to engage with the energy suppliers. 

    That is also they key issue that keeps being ignored when the media spin this story about "evil energy suppliers", they do not just turn up, smash someone's door in and fit a prepayment meter for fun, or because someone did not pay for one month, or even six, in cases where warrants have been obtained the customer has generally been non-paying and refusing to even engage with the energy supplier for nearly two years. Whilst people may not like these installations, or automatic switchovers of smart meters, the change overs are hardly unfair. 

    Do you have a source for it taking nearly 2 years of non engagement to get forced pre pay meter installation?
  • Scot_39
    Scot_39 Posts: 1,670
    First Post First Anniversary Name Dropper
    Forumite
    pochase said:
    The £30 is to give the them some time to go to a shop to load the key, not to have energy for the next weeks. It is just to avoid the scenario where the emter has been switched and they sit in the dark freezing. £30 should be enough to get to a shop, but it will not be enough to get you through if you don't have money for energy.


    You assume that the information is available to the impacted customer, and has the ability to pay for top up - at the point of switchover.

    And the reality is that many of the poorest do not.

    You cannot go to the shop unless you already have the payment details.

    And you can't buy the credit if you have no money - waiting for instance for next months benefits payment.

    Some articles quoted people as not knowing they had been remote switched, literally until the lights went out.

    As per one such article

    "Speaking to the the BBC, Ofgem has said that it received reports of: "vulnerable customers being left without power for days or even weeks.""

    Think of that weeks without power - weeks - in one of supposedly the richest nations in the world.





     
  • pochase
    pochase Posts: 3,449
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    The new regulation the suppliers have agreed on are ten times trying to contact the customer and a welfare visit, don't you think that this should be a sign for the customer to see the writing on the wall that they need to put aside some money to be able to pay for energy when the meter is switched?

    How much credit do you think they should get, to get them started and what makes you believe that if they are not able to pay for their energy once they are on prepaid, that they will be able to pay a few weeks later?


  • Chrysalis
    Chrysalis Posts: 4,106
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    edited 18 April 2023 at 8:44PM
    pochase said:
    The new regulation the suppliers have agreed on are ten times trying to contact the customer and a welfare visit, don't you think that this should be a sign for the customer to see the writing on the wall that they need to put aside some money to be able to pay for energy when the meter is switched?

    How much credit do you think they should get, to get them started and what makes you believe that if they are not able to pay for their energy once they are on prepaid, that they will be able to pay a few weeks later?



    Well from my perspective i asked for a source of the almost two years claim, which was in a post that you liked, if its internal to staff, got no issue an admittance of being staff, but if its public, would like to see it.

    On the meter replacement, my main issue with the announcement is the high rate the debt is forced to be paid back, I would have liked to see Ofgem enforce an affordability test for the rate of paying down the debt, but there is no mention of that anywhere.  The ten times to try to contact customer is in effect nothing, but the welfare visit is something providing it requires there to be a meeting not "an attempted visit".
  • pochase
    pochase Posts: 3,449
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Well from my perspective i asked for a source of the almost two years claim, if its internal to staff, got no issue an admittance of being staff, but if its public, would like to see it.

    How does a question you asked @mattmattmatt exactly relate to my post you are quoting?
  • Chrysalis
    Chrysalis Posts: 4,106
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    edited 19 April 2023 at 1:04AM
    pochase said:
    Well from my perspective i asked for a source of the almost two years claim, if its internal to staff, got no issue an admittance of being staff, but if its public, would like to see it.

    How does a question you asked @mattmattmatt exactly relate to my post you are quoting?
    I have no opinion on the amount of emergency credit initially supplied. If it is supplied alongside the means of making topups, related to the billpayers mental and physical capabilities, and the repayment of debt taken from topups is agreed with the billpayer via an affordability assessment I think I have no problem with it.

    Sadly I think Ofgem have been lazy on this.

    The issues with large long term unpaid bills suggests any combination of the following.

    1 - poor budget management
    2 - lack of ability to pay
    3 - lack of understanding of bills

    I think a solution that involves trusting the suppliers to handle it is wrong, I think it should be handled by an independent body, so something like this.

    1 - Provider tries to contact customer about the unpaid bills by phone, letter and email at least 10 times via each method with it all logged.
    2 - If this fails they then contact the independent body who themselves is effectively an adjudicator, they do the welfare visit, this visit will include education on energy bill management, energy usage, advice, affordability assessment, the £30 credit is not provided without this happening.  There should be a check if the person is vulnerable, has a social worker, on daily needs PIP, has a number of health conditions (not just one's affected by cold weather but also mental health conditions).
    3 - A decision is then made, which might involve the prepayment meter being fitted, or it might involve in a decision to keep the credit meter.
    4 - If either the customer or the supplier dont go along with the decision it then goes to court for a court decision.

    This in itself is not wildly different to how other consumer debt is handled.  where by e.g. credit card companies do an affordability assessment with their customer, as well as court enforcement officers doing the same thing.

    This is why people have replied the £30 credit might not mean much, if you just fit a prepay without having a proper meeting with the customer, and no affordability check, you have the obvious problem of how do they manage to keep topping up as a big chunk of a top up is taken to pay down the debt, which might be too much for what the customer can afford.

    I can also explain my point 2, plain and simple I dont think the industry is capable of handling this properly, british gas were caught with their pants down by an undercover reporter, suppliers keep trying to set incorrect DD's, an over reliance on estimated bills, suppliers getting meters mixed up at properties, there is just too much incompetence,  I myself had a 4 figure balance with Octopus (which MWT told me he thought was wrong, and I agree), that only got dealt with on my initiative (partly refunded, rest paid by myself on own initiative on top of normal payments) although was part of a disputed bill, the reason Octopus told me themselves they didnt treat it as debt wasnt due to the dispute but rather I kept my DD active.
  • Scot_39
    Scot_39 Posts: 1,670
    First Post First Anniversary Name Dropper
    Forumite
    edited 18 April 2023 at 10:22PM
    pochase said:
    The new regulation the suppliers have agreed on are ten times trying to contact the customer and a welfare visit, don't you think that this should be a sign for the customer to see the writing on the wall that they need to put aside some money to be able to pay for energy when the meter is switched?

    How much credit do you think they should get, to get them started and what makes you believe that if they are not able to pay for their energy once they are on prepaid, that they will be able to pay a few weeks later?


    If it works - and we all know it didn't before - or there wouldn't be the need for the new rules - then you might argue they have notice.
    But it doesn't matter how much notice you give someone with no money - expecting them to try and put aside money they don't have for a future event is just fanciful.
    If they had the money - in many genuine cases - they would have paid the bills. 
    Not everyone caught up by this is trying to swing the lead.
    Take for instance - that as last measured - there were 2.9m pensioners - as of last govt stats c2019 - entitled to pension credit - and it even admits - over a million of them - that they can obviously identify - weren't claiming or getting that help  (note they didn't send anything to tell them to claim or just pay them the extra - just identified they existed - and put up a few posters. And same has been true of benefits for decades under Labour or Cons govts) 
    So that 1m+ must earn sub what has just gone up to £201pw - c£10000 pa.

    Can you live on that qualifying income and pay all of your bills ?

    Given by default UC is paid one qualifying assessment month and then 7 days in arrears of that 1st qualifying month - then a more reasonable target I would suggest is 5 weeks typical consumption. 
    Even at best you can reduce that UC payment period to 2 weeks - so 3 weeks - not 2-3 days.

    I can still remember my parents' and their neighbours borrowing / lending 50ps to each other for the meter - even those households with 2 working adults - not because they needed change - but because they literally really didn't have 50p to their name - by the end of the week some weeks.

    Poverty - real working poverty isn't new - only the inflated amounts of the bills.
  • Casskale
    Casskale Posts: 33
    Name Dropper First Post
    Forumite
    edited 18 April 2023 at 10:59PM
    Chrysalis said:
    pochase said:
    The new regulation the suppliers have agreed on are ten times trying to contact the customer and a welfare visit, don't you think that this should be a sign for the customer to see the writing on the wall that they need to put aside some money to be able to pay for energy when the meter is switched?

    How much credit do you think they should get, to get them started and what makes you believe that if they are not able to pay for their energy once they are on prepaid, that they will be able to pay a few weeks later?



    Well from my perspective i asked for a source of the almost two years claim, which was in a post that you liked, if its internal to staff, got no issue an admittance of being staff, but if its public, would like to see it.

    On the meter replacement, my main issue with the announcement is the high rate the debt is forced to be paid back, I would have liked to see Ofgem enforce an affordability test for the rate of paying down the debt, but there is no mention of that anywhere.  The ten times to try to contact customer is in effect nothing, but the welfare visit is something providing it requires there to be a meeting not "an attempted visit".
    Explain to me, in simple terms, who should pay the bill if the bill payer cannot.

    I'll give you three options as I see it.

    A) The taxpayer
    B ) Other energy users ( who are mostly A)
    C) The shareholders of companies (and they just reflect it back to B )

    You seem to be advocating that anyone other than 

    D) The energy user

    should pay. Care to elaborate why?




  • Chrysalis
    Chrysalis Posts: 4,106
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    edited 19 April 2023 at 1:20AM
    Casskale said:
    Chrysalis said:
    pochase said:
    The new regulation the suppliers have agreed on are ten times trying to contact the customer and a welfare visit, don't you think that this should be a sign for the customer to see the writing on the wall that they need to put aside some money to be able to pay for energy when the meter is switched?

    How much credit do you think they should get, to get them started and what makes you believe that if they are not able to pay for their energy once they are on prepaid, that they will be able to pay a few weeks later?



    Well from my perspective i asked for a source of the almost two years claim, which was in a post that you liked, if its internal to staff, got no issue an admittance of being staff, but if its public, would like to see it.

    On the meter replacement, my main issue with the announcement is the high rate the debt is forced to be paid back, I would have liked to see Ofgem enforce an affordability test for the rate of paying down the debt, but there is no mention of that anywhere.  The ten times to try to contact customer is in effect nothing, but the welfare visit is something providing it requires there to be a meeting not "an attempted visit".
    Explain to me, in simple terms, who should pay the bill if the bill payer cannot.

    I'll give you three options as I see it.

    A) The taxpayer
    B ) Other energy users ( who are mostly A)
    C) The shareholders of companies (and they just reflect it back to B )

    You seem to be advocating that anyone other than 

    D) The energy user

    should pay. Care to elaborate why?





    Where did I say that? I said pay back at a rate which is affordable.

    I also dont think the debt should be allowed to get large in the first place.  A problem with the fixed DD system. This was mentioned in my post you replied to.

    Hopefully someone does post the source of the information that it is nearly 2 years of no dialogue until it gets to this stage, and also the source of it being barely any pensioners.

    --

    There is already schemes I think for those in energy debt, I dont know how they paid for (I assume most likely B/C), but the problem as I understand it they rely on customers with cash flow problems ringing up charity lines and then getting referred, do any of the suppliers themselves point customers in this direction? perhaps those who know can answer this question.
  • Mobtr
    Mobtr Posts: 606
    First Post First Anniversary Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Before I retired, I used to work for an energy company for several years. 
    We did apply for warrants to install pp meters but this was after months and months of trying to engage with the customer to try to help. There were letters, emails, text messages & home visits. Each home visit was preceded by contact saying we were coming - quite often no one in or access refused. 
    If a pp meter was installed the debt would be loaded, usually paid back at £10 per week initially, if the customer couldn’t afford this, it was reduced to as low as £3 per week. Often the debt was £100s if not £1000s so unlikely it was ever going to be paid back in full. 
    Now that smart meters can be remotely changed, the process is slightly changed, there is still many letters, emails & texts but not so many visits although they still do happen. 
    If a customer does engage, most companies have things in place to help, funds that can be accessed, grants, etc. CAB referrals are usual, however, most of these will only help if the customer is seen to be trying to help themselves. So having a payment plan set up, however small would go a long way in getting access to funds. 
    There is plenty of help out there but unfortunately some people bury their heads in the sand or prioritise other things over paying energy bills & before you all jump on me, I don’t mean essentials like food etc, I mean non essentials that the can probably do without for a few months until prices start to reduce, which they will. 
Meet your Ambassadors

Categories

  • All Categories
  • 341.4K Banking & Borrowing
  • 249.7K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449K Spending & Discounts
  • 233.7K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 605.8K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 172.3K Life & Family
  • 246.7K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.8K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards