Government urged to ban forced meter switch

Angus South MSP Graeme Dey.Angus South MSP Graeme Dey.
Angus South MSP Graeme Dey.
The UK Government is being urged to ban energy companies from forcing households onto pre-payment energy meters.

The call by the SNP comes after regulator Ofgem opened an investigation into the practice, where providers force the switch on customers who have fallen behind on their bills. Sometimes people do not even know that they have been switched.

SNP MSP for the Angus South constituency, Graeme Dey, engaged with Citizens Advice on the problems with these meters last year and spoke out – in the spring and again ahead of the UK Government’s Autumn Statement – calling for tangible measures to cut costs for those paying a poverty premium.

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He has called on the UK Government to prohibit power companies from charging higher prices for energy via pre-paid meters than through other payment methods, and on suppliers to halt the installation of meters. However, the regulation of energy markets is a matter reserved to the UK Parliament.

Mr Dey said: “As I’ve said before, it’s a disgrace that the UK presides over a system whereby pre-payment meters – often used by the poorest in society – offer more expensive gas and electric than alternative routes."

At Westminster, Glasgow North East SNP MP Anne McLaughlin has also been campaigning on prepayment meters for several months – convincing MPs from all parties to speak in a debate in the House of Commons last month. She also launched a Private Members’ Bill which would stop people being automatically disconnected from their supply when their credit runs out.

Across Scotland, 467,000 households are on a pre-payment meter. Energy bosses themselves have told MPs they want radical reform of energy regulation and pricing, including the introduction of a “social tariff” – with the richest paying most – so that the scandal of the poorest paying most per unit of energy would be ended.Commenting,

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Mr Dey continued: “Despite us being such an energy-rich country, the current system is seeing households across Scotland struggle to keep the heating on this winter – and here in Angus 21% of all households are on pre-payment meters.

“The inequity they face has been raised by myself and SNP colleagues over the course of many months, and yet still we have seen no action to address it by the UK Government largely responsible for the extent of the cost-of-living crisis here.

“Energy companies are not innocent either though, and the least the Tory government should do now is ensure providers are not forcing people onto these meters – exacerbating energy debt rather than stopping people falling into it in the first place.”