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Prepayment meters: We need your help to get a full picture of what’s going on

Happy new year. Fuel Poverty Action need your help!

Fuel Poverty Action have found that over the past few months the issue of prepayment meter has cropped up again and again,  but we need your help to work out the full picture.

We have heard all sorts of horror stories in the last couple of months; from people whose homes have been broken into by energy companies so that a meter can be installed against their will, to companies taking huge amounts of topped up money away each week through standing charges or debt reclaiming, to a company even forcing a new tenant to top up several times before having any credit to use because of debt from an old tenant.

We also know that prepayment meter customers pay on average £80 per year more, for dual fuel, than a customer paying by Direct Debit (though for some companies it’s even higher, the Co-op charge as much as £250 a year more for a dual fuel customer. That’s a staggering 20% premium for a pre payment customers). What’s more prepayment meters are charged standing charges, whether or not they are actually using their energy, which can amount to huge amounts of money per year.

If you’ve got a pre-payment meter story to tell, we want to hear it. We want to build up an understanding of how wide-spread the problem of unwanted and unfair meters are.
You can either reply on this post, email us at fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com or through our website:http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/speak-out-on-your-situation/

Until we get a better understanding of the problem it’s going to be hard to take action that will really be helpful, so please do share your stories (anonymously if you like) and share to other friends and family on facebook!



24 thoughts on “Prepayment meters: We need your help to get a full picture of what’s going on

  1. With British Gas who wrote to me early this year and advised that as well as putting up my basic tariff the standing charge was going to be a whopping .26 p per day which is over £7.80 a month or £94 a year before anything else. This has come on top of all the other price increases and includes £130.00 a year to B’ham City Council in Council Tax. (On the dole.) No chance of changing to a cheaper tariff unless someone knows something I don’t know. (Pre-payment.) Good luck with the demo, only sorry I can’t attend. Tell them to fuck them, the parasitic bastards!

    Posted by Diki | May 6, 2014, 5:41 pm
    • Hi Diki,
      We hate the Standing Charge as well and think it should be scrapped entirely.
      If you don’t have more than £500 debt per fuel you should still be able to change supplier even on a prepayment meter. Ebico are a smaller energy supplier that don’t have a Standing Charge on PPMs: https://www.ebico.org.uk/
      If you do have more than £500 debt per meter unfortunately you are stuck with British Gas for the meantime. If you are able to get it down to under £500 you can then look into changing supplier.
      Thanks for your solidarity for the protest on May 12th!
      Clare, FPA

      Posted by fuelpovertyaction | May 7, 2014, 12:01 pm
  2. I pay £10 a month on British gas pay as you go card – not any more !!!
    Service charge at 26p a day is day light robbery !!! I am now paying nearly the same in charges – my gas bill has almost doubled !!!! So p***ed off !!!!
    How can this be happening !!!!!!!

    Posted by Bex | April 30, 2014, 6:31 pm
    • £10 per month is very low consumption of gas. Firstly, check to see if there is a debt on the meter, despite many debts being satisfied, some company’s fail to adjust the meter secondly, if there is no debt, apply for a credit meter but be careful, this can be an opportunity for the energy suppliers to install Smart Meters…

      Posted by Stephen Hadley | April 30, 2014, 6:54 pm
  3. We can’t pay by direct debit. The way our money is paid means that we can’t guarantee the money will be in the bank when it needs to be so we have no option but to pay the extra for having pre payment meters. It’s disgusting that the poorest people in society have to pay more. The cost per unit should be the cost per unit regardless of the way we pay for it.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 25, 2014, 11:47 am
    • I don’t disagree with you. Two years ago at a meeting with some of the Energy Suppliers this very point was raised, the Energy Suppliers argued that they have costs by paying commission to the shop/retailers for topping up the keys/cards etc. They will claim that Direct Debit is the cheapest method of payment although I refuse to pay by Direct Debit as this allows Energy Suppliers to have a hand in my wallet….

      Posted by Stephen Hadley | January 27, 2014, 5:10 pm
  4. We now owe over £10,000 to British Gas (for electricity) and have been waiting over a year for a pay and go meter. We are very elderly, my wife is over 80 years old. We have paid all estimated bills over the past 3 years and £10 a week on a card. British gas fitters say our supply is unsafe and UK power keeps moving the date to change the installation. Apparently British Gas add £300+ to the outstanding amount every month.

    We have been threatened with forced entry and a police presence. A debt agency returned the alleged debt to British Gas because of doubts about the legality of the British Gas claim.

    Posted by sleepyhead111 | January 22, 2014, 2:22 pm
    • It seems an incredible amount in the first place and I’m assuming this is a domestic supply? On average, this accumulates to some 10 years of fuel. If you have admitted to the amount and agreed in writing of a fixed repayment plan, then its reasonable to assume that no court would grant a warrant so long as you have not defaulted. I don’t understand why the installation is classified as unsafe, so I would need more information. Please be aware that the new installation maybe Smart Meters which is voluntary as these are NOT a statute in UK law. As you are on Pre-Paid meters, then the question begs what the energy suppliers hope to gain by executing a false entry, possibly, to remove their equipment however, if you are vulnerable, they are not permitted to do so for a debt.

      I would advise you to seek independent advice quickly to resolve this matter…

      Posted by Stephen Hadley | January 22, 2014, 3:49 pm
      • The utility side of the meter (UKpower) comes in as a 3 phase supply left over from a workshop that was once behind the property we rent. Ukpower estimates that the unit is about 80 years old. Over the years the domestic supply has been plumbed into it to varying degrees of quality. This set up supplies both the shop below us (now empty) and our maisonette above. The incoming supply is subject to power surges and these not only drive our meters but burn out light bulbs, toasters and 3 pin plugs, of which I have a collection. Some work was carried out by UKpower on their side of the meters but they had to halt it because the incoming supply (under the pavement) was deemed to hazardous for them proceed and they filled the hole, put the 3 phase unit back on the wall and left. Now we are waiting for such time as the two parties can work together to restore the system to safety, and only after this does a separate company install a pay and go meter, meanwhile our alleged debt carries on increasing. We have contacted British Gas CEO, now replaced and the Ombudsman only to be told our complaint has been timed out and we need the permission of British Gas for the Ombudsman to proceed. Needless to say we have not received this permission.

        Posted by Anonymous | January 22, 2014, 4:12 pm
        • Firstly, consumers or landlords are only responsible for the installation downstream (following) of the meters, not the incoming service. I assume you are tenants?. If the installation following the meters is supplying the shop, workshops, where are the meters located? Were the other units separate from the living accommodation under any tenancy agreement? Having not seen the property or any documentation, it appears that there is a reluctance by the energy companies to pursue the debt through the courts due to what might be ‘legal responsibility’.

          Should you, for example, be solely responsible for the premises you occupy, this would need to be shown to the courts and if agreed, would/could involve a third party i.e the landlord, who may also be responsible for part of the debt. I would write directly to the Ombudsman explaining your situation.Check your tenancy agreements. Do let me know where the meters are located as there are regulations in place that cover installations..

          Posted by Stephen Hadley | January 22, 2014, 6:46 pm
          • The meters, the shop included, are all situated in our entrance hall. About 8 feet from the ground this includes the units that control our (3) night storage heaters. We have a standard assured tenancy agreement for 5 years.

            Posted by Brian Lovett | January 22, 2014, 7:29 pm
    • You should go to watchdog, British Gas are truly shameful doing this to you at your age. I can barely imagine the stress you must be going through. Please go to the media, do everything to expose the sheer greed and insanity of this big energy supplier. How can they warrant an extra £300 a month???? Good luck, I hope this works out for you both.

      Posted by Natasha | April 2, 2014, 2:55 pm
  5. I moved into a house on 3rd August 2009 and asked npower to fit a prepayment meter which was done in the September. I had £5 a week charge to clear the debt from the previous month. After a few years of paying the extra I thought I must have paid it off by now, so I called npower and they insisted they hadn’t fitted the meter until the May (7 months later) and I had a £700 debt of which I had already paid £500 with the meter! I’m still getting £200-£300 bills from them and I don’t know what to do! I defiantly wouldn’t have gone all winter without a prepayment meter with a new born daughter!

    Posted by Steph Kirby | January 17, 2014, 2:43 pm
  6. I moved into a house on 3rd August 2009 and asked for a prepayment meter to be installed by npower which I’m sure was done in the September. I had £5 taken off each week for the debt from the previous month but after a few years of this extra charge I thought I must have paid it off by now, so I called npower and they insisted they hadn’t fitted the meter until the May (seven months later) and I had £ 700 debt of which I had paid about £500 off so now I believe they owe me money and I’m still getting £200-300 bills! I don’t know what to do now as I know I defiantly wouldn’t have gone all winter without a prepayment meter with a new born daughter!

    Posted by Anonymous | January 17, 2014, 2:35 pm
  7. I’ve heard plenty of stories about how pre-paid meters are actually MORE expensive than by paying monthly/quarterly direct debit which isn’t great considering the majority of pre-paid meters are in low income homes!

    Posted by Jeremy @ SmartPowerShop | January 16, 2014, 1:03 pm
  8. I am putting £20- 30 on the gas and about £20 on the electric often we run out of gas because of how cold it is and are unable to top up. I cannot afford to do Direct Debt because they never take it out of the bank the same time each month and so cost me Bank charges. thats £25 a time. The prices are a damned rip off.

    Posted by Cat | January 16, 2014, 10:51 am
  9. I am with EON. The prepayment meters were already installed when I moved into a housing trust property and I was told by the landlord they cannot be reomoved (although I can change provider). The standing charge alone has been increased from 26p per day to 31p for electric and gas has risen from 27.4p to 35.6p per day, far more than the 8% rise in gas and electic usage prices.

    Posted by S Kelly | January 16, 2014, 2:17 am
  10. Currently through the winter I am putting in about £50 a fortnight for gas only, for this I have my hot water on overnight for about 3 hours and heating for around 4 hours a day. I cant afford to put more heating on nor the gas fire. Electric is also costing me about £40 a fortnight and I literally have to cut my food bills and other bills to pay for the gas and electric 😦

    Posted by Anonymous | January 16, 2014, 12:15 am
  11. I moved into a house with a pre payment meter and was spending about. £30 a month on electric. When I switched over to a direct debit meter my bills went down to £15 a month on average. Same company, same electric. Unfair rip off for people who can’t afford direct debit – so lets charge them more and put them even more in debt. Makes no sense.

    Posted by Ellie | January 15, 2014, 4:02 pm
  12. Hi there.. I am posting you this link Re; Smart Meters, I am its author along with other articles on the same website and I hope it can be of use.. s.shr.lc/1gAJVYC I am on twitter @co_gas_steveH I formerly worked for Transco and National Grid as an engineer….

    Posted by Stephen Hadley | January 14, 2014, 8:13 pm
  13. Reblogged this on nearlydead.

    Posted by nearlydead | January 7, 2014, 5:45 pm
    • They are back breakingly expensive. It is costing us nearly £100 per week through the winter for duel fuel. This is just for a three bed semi and I would add that we do not have tonnes of electrical equipment either. The standing charge is normally ‘whipped off’ at the beginning of every week. Unlike direct debit customers a prepayment means that fuel is paid for before it is even used so the energy companies are guaranteed payment unlike other customers who might default on their payments or they just cannot afford it. The other worrying problem with these meter cards is that it is almost impossible to tell if the charges or prices are correct. If you question it the company will tell you that a report has to be paid for.

      Posted by Anonymous | January 8, 2014, 2:24 pm
      • Yep, i put 40 a week into mine, I only had a pre payment meter as it was in the house I bought already. No electric co. will take it out! I want to go back to direct debit! But hey ho ..

        Posted by Anonymous | January 14, 2014, 3:28 pm

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