The government gave energy companies a deadline on Tuesday (February 7) to decide what action to take for customers who mistakenly installed a pre-paid meter.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps accused Ofgem of “pulling the wool over their eyes” by accepting at face value what energy company bosses told them and didn’t listen to customers.
It follows from this an investigation by The Times which showed how vulnerable customers – including disabled and mentally ill people – were coerced British gas on billing meters or turn off the gas.
The newspaper’s undercover reporter worked for debt collection contractor Arvato Financial Solutions and accompanied agents who used court orders gain access to customers’ homes to forcibly install meters.
Actions that energy companies can take may include issuing compensation.
What did Mr. Shapps say about that?
In a statement, Mr Shapps said: “I am horrified that vulnerable customers are struggling with their own electricity bills their houses were invaded and prepaid meters is established when there is a clear obligation on suppliers to support them.
“They need to focus their efforts on their consumers, the British public, who are on the receiving end of this abhorrent behaviour.
“I am also concerned that the regulator is too easily blindsided by taking at face value what the energy companies are telling them.
“They must also listen to customers to ensure that this type of treatment of vulnerable consumers does not happen again.”
In response, Ofgem said it shared Mr Shapps’ “shock” at the findings of The Times’ investigation and ordered British gas cease all activity under the warrant until it can demonstrate compliance with its standards and requirements.
Customers move to a prepaid meter is intended as a last resort and vulnerable people should not be forcibly moved into one.