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    British Gas suspends 'unacceptable' force-fitting of pre-pay meters

    February 2, 2023 - AFP World News


      Energy supplier British Gas said Thursday it would no longer "force-fit" prepayment meters in homes of customers behind on their bills following criticism they were targeting vulnerable people.

      Energy companies in the UK can obtain court warrants that allow them to enter people's homes and fit the pay-as-you-go meters, with customers at risk of having their gas supply cut off if they fail to top them up.

      An undercover investigation by The Times newspaper found that contractors working for British Gas sent debt collectors to "break into" homes and "force-fit" meters.

      Some of the customers the report identified had "extreme vulnerabilities", including a single father with three young children, and a mother with a four-week-old baby.

      Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, said Thursday it was suspending "all warrant activity" as a result, and will also launch an investigation.

      "Protecting vulnerable customers is an absolute priority and we have clear processes and policies to ensure we manage customer debt carefully and safely," said Centrica chief executive officer Chris O'Shea.

      "The allegations around our third-party contractor Arvato are unacceptable and we immediately suspended their warrant activity.

      "I am extremely disappointed that this has occurred. As a result, on Wednesday morning, we took a further decision to suspend all our prepayment warrant activity at least until the end of the winter."

      Energy regulator Ofgem has also announced it will investigate the findings in The Times, which it called "extremely serious allegations".

      "It is unacceptable for any supplier to impose forced installations on vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills before all other options have been exhausted," said a spokesperson.

      The UK is battling a cost-of-living crisis, with soaring energy prices pushing inflation to decades-high rates over 10 percent.




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