UK energy regulator reviews forced installation of prepayment meters

FILE PHOTO: The sun rises behind electricity pylons near Chester

(Reuters) - British energy market regulator Ofgem has asked all suppliers to review recent practices for switching customers to prepayment meters (PPM) without consent, which may need to be reversed or compensated, it said on Tuesday.

"The rules and regulations are clear that installing forced PPMs should only be done as a last resort and only where it is safe and practicable to do so," Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearly said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Ofgem asked all energy suppliers to stop the forced installation of prepayment meters in people's homes, and instigated an urgent investigation into supplier British Gas, part of Centrica, over such practices.

The unprecedented surge in energy prices has left many households facing significant energy bills and debt, Brearly said, urging suppliers to treat customers with compassion and professionalism.

Ofgem is investigating both the potential breaches at British Gas and whether such prepayment meter practices were isolated or widespread across all suppliers.

In addition, Ofgem announced details for an in-depth Market Compliance Review (MCR), focused on forced installation and remote mode switch.

It is bringing together suppliers, consumer groups and charities to look at what further protections could be introduced, to conclude by the end of March, Ofgem said.

(Reporting by Nora Buli in Oslo and Amna Karimi in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum)