Over 94,000 prepayment meters were forcibly installed under warrant last year – with Scottish Power and British Gas leading the pack

  • New figures reveal over 94,000 prepayment meters were installed under warrant in 2022 – with Scottish Power and British Gas leading the pack
  • Uplift in number of people redeeming energy bill support vouchers with 78% used, as Ministers call for suppliers to help those yet to use them
  • Energy Security Secretary calling on companies to focus on compensating those customers mistreated through this practice

Over 94,000 prepayment meters were forcibly installed in homes under warrant last year without customer consent – on average over 7,500 meters a month.

After calling on suppliers to stop forcibly installing prepayment meters, the Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps has now revealed the most overzealous suppliers, as part of a crackdown on mistreatment of vulnerable customers in the use of these meters.

Leading the charge with the highest number of prepayment meters force-fitted last year are British Gas, Scottish Power and OVO Energy, making up 70% of all forced installations with a total of 66,187 devices fitted under warrant. Of these, Scottish Power tops the list as the worst offender when taking into account their customer base – force fitting over 24,300 in their customer’s homes in 2022.

Mr Shapps has today doubled down on his call for any mistreatment of customers to be rectified, while again urging suppliers to help the households on traditional prepayment metres access the 2.1m vouchers yet to be claimed under the government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme.

Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps said: 

Today’s figures give a clear and horrifying picture of just how widespread the forced installation of prepayment meters had become, with last year seeing an average of over 7,500 force-fitted a month.

Prepayment meters are right for some people, so I do not want to ban them outright, but I do have concerns that companies have not been treating their customers fairly, over an already difficult winter during which the government has tried to help families by paying around half the energy bill of the average household.

After my calls for change, I’m pleased that suppliers have made their actions public and agreed to put a stop to forcing prepayment onto vulnerable customers for good – but this cannot happen again.

I will be watching Ofgem’s ongoing review closely so customers get the support they need – and those vulnerable consumers who have wrongly suffered forced installations get the justice they deserve in the form of redress.

Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability Amanda Solloway said:

Another increase in the number of energy bill support vouchers redeemed by customers is great news, but I urge those that haven’t done so to use them as soon as possible – and suppliers must continue to do everything they can to make sure this happens. 

We will not stand for the mistreatment of vulnerable customers who have been forced onto prepayment meters. I welcome the move from Ofgem to make it easier for customers to report cases but this can’t be a one off, and suppliers must now offer redress to those they have wronged.

Prepayment meters allow customers to pay for gas and electricity on a pay-as-you-go basis and serve an important function by helping the avoidance of debt and court action.

However, an intervention from the Energy Security Secretary last month brought the practise to a firm halt, after evidence came to light of suppliers in forcing these meters on vulnerable households.

Mr Shapps demanded transparency from the sector over the number of forced installation warrants they had used, following a huge spike in applications as households grappled with high energy costs. Lord Justice Edis issued directions for magistrates’ courts to stop all warrants that allow companies to force-fit these meters, alongside the government’s crackdown unacceptable behaviour from suppliers.

This move follows the government’s unprecedented support to help families with their bills this winter, including households on prepayment meters.

Latest figures published today show 7.6 million Energy Bills Support Scheme vouchers have now been redeemed by households that use prepayment meters across Great Britain, as of February – saving them up to £400 on their energy costs. 

Since the scheme launched the number of households redeeming their vouchers has steadily climbed with 78% used so far – up from 76% in January. Suppliers with the highest redemption levels include Shell Energy, E and Octopus Energy. However, those with the most vouchers still outstanding, with nearly 400,000 yet to be redeemed include Scottish Power, OVO Electricity and British Gas. 

Customers will also benefit from new protections, announced in last week’s Budget, that will see households on prepayment meters pay no more than other customers for their energy.

The recent action from the government led the regulator, Ofgem, to launch a review into the use of prepayment meters in the sector. Companies have been instructed to revisit their past cases and offer redress, such as compensation, to customers where these meters were wrongly installed and regulations have not been followed. 

Just last week, Ofgem also extended the ban on forced installations of prepayment meters until a new code of practice is agreed by energy companies, after British Gas was found to have broken into homes to fit the devices. 

The government continues to work with the sector, as well as consumer groups, charities and local leaders to reach eligible customers with unused vouchers that have not yet benefitted from the Energy Bill Support Scheme. This includes ongoing information campaigns across community radio, social media, national magazine titles and roaming advert vans that have been popping up in towns and cities across the country.

Notes to editors

  • Today’s figures show the delivery of Energy Bills. Support Scheme in England, Scotland and Wales, are available here.
  • Data published today provides updated numbers of vouchers issued by suppliers and redeemed by customers up to the 1 March 2023. Additionally, geographic data provides redemption rates broken down by region, local authorities and constituencies up to the 1 February 2023. 
  • Data on the number of warrants issued to suppliers for the forced installation of prepayment meters in 2022 is listed below.
  • When accounting the number of gas and electricity customers they serve, Scottish power had the highest number of installations per customer basis in 2022 (over 500 installations per 100,000 meter points).
Supplier Number of PPMs installed under warrant in 2022
British Gas (Centrica) 25,000
Scottish Power 24,320
OVO 16,867
EON 10,220
EDF 7,240
Shell 4,145
Utilita 2,559
Bulb 2,091
Utility Warehouse 1,489
Tru Energy 101
Ecotricity 79
Good Energy 58
Octopus 32
  • Data provided above for suppliers who installed PPMs under warrant in 2022. Based on information provided by energy suppliers to DESNZ ministers, the total number of prepayment meters installed under warrant in 2022 is 94,201.
  • The data on the number of prepayment meters was requested by DESNZ from a group of energy supplier in January and February this year. This request captured the majority of domestic energy supplier operating in the Great Britain, but does not capture all smaller domestic energy suppliers.
  • This data is based on supplier responses to letters from DESNZ in January and February based on their best estimates that the time. As such the figures reported may differ slightly from those collected by Ofgem, for example due to different reporting periods and rounding.
  • This data has been requested by DESNZ from a number of energy suppliers, as such DESNZ is reliant on the reporting form suppliers for the accuracy of this information.
Published 27 March 2023