Objecting to Prepayment Meters

Where you are on a standard meter, sometimes also called a “dry meter”, if your Gas or Electricity supplier wants to install a prepayment meter, they first must ask your permission. They will normally do this by sending you a 7 day letter to advise they want access to your home to install the meter. This letter should be hand delivered or sent by first class recorded post and advise you that if you don’t allow them access, then after 15 days, they can apply to the Court for a Warrant to gain access to your home.

The first point to note is you do not have  to allow the company access, even after you have received a  7 day letter. You can refuse and you won’t suffer any penalty. However, you should write back to them and let them know you object to any application for a warrant and request, if they are going to proceed, they must inform the court you are requesting a hearing.

This is important, as if you don’t write back to the Energy Firm, they can request a warrant in Scotland from a Justice of the Peace and although their application will be considered and may well be refused, this will occur without your being given the opportunity to object or give evidence.

If you do object, the Firm should not not proceed with an application to the Justice of the Peace Court.

Instead they  will have to decide whether or not they want to apply to your local Sheriff Court and request a date for a hearing be scheduled. 

However, they may not apply for a hearing and, in actual fact, to date, there are very few instances of firms applying to the Sheriff Court for a hearing.

You should be careful, though, as an alternative the Firm may send out another 7 day letter in the hope you don’t object again. You need to object every time. 

What Firms must do before Installing a Prepayment Meter

Ofgem, the body that regulates gas and energy providers has issued new rules that energy firms must follow before they instal a prepayment meter.

The first thing to note about this, is they should only do so, where it is fair and reasonable for them to do so. They must also:

  • Not install a meter for the most vulnerable households. This includes:
    • all households that have a requirement for a continuous energy supply for health reasons, including to operate medical equipment
    • households with an occupant who are is 75 years old and there is no other support available.
    • households with children under 2 years old
    • households with a medical need for a warm home, including where there is a sever medical illness, including a terminal illness. This includes, for example, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and sickle cell disease.
    • Where no one has the ability to top up a meter due to a physical or mental incapacity.
  • Make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer before a meter is installed.
  • Carry out a site welfare visit first.
  • In addition to that, they should assess customers where there are children under the age of 5 year old living in the household, and where other customers:
    • have medical or health conditions, such neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntingdon’s or Cerebral palsy, nutritional issues, such as Malnutrition and mobility limiting conditions such as Osteoporosis, Muscular Dystrophy or Multiple Sclerosis
    • serious mental or developmental health conditions, for example clinical depression, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, learning disabilities and difficulties or Schizophrenia
    • temporary situations, such as pregnancy or bereavement
  • Audio and camera equipment must also be worn by the lead representative for the energy firm when doing a site visit and or installing a prepayment meter, or doing a remote switch over of a Smart Meter onto prepayment mode.
  • They must also give a £30 credit when switching over onto a prepayment meter to avoid the customer being disconnected.
  • Finally, once all debt is repaid they must consider switching the customer away from a prepayment model again.
Template Letter Prepayment Meter
Sample letter of how to object to installation of a prepayment meter.

Reasons for Objecting to a Prepayment Meter

There can be multiple reasons for objecting to the installation of a prepayment and we will look at some of these below.

You Dispute the Level of Debt

Where you are in dispute with the energy firm as to how much you owe and they write to you to say they want to instal a prepayment meter, you should object to them.  If they are able to instal the prepayment meter, they can then start deducting the arrears from how much you pay into your meter. How much this will be will depend on the weekly rate they set or the amount you negotiate.

If you are disputing the level of debt, you should raise a formal complaint with the energy company and if you are not able to resolve it with them, escalate it to the Energy Ombudsman.

The Debt is too Low

If the amount is not that much, you can argue that to instal a prepayment meter in your home would be a disproportionate act. There are no guidelines as to what constitutes too low, but the in a recent letter to the Scottish Parliament from the Association of Scottish Justice of the Peace’s, they suggested it would be unlikely any warrant had been issued for debt of less than £500. That is not to say it would be reasonable to install a prepayment debt for a debt that was more than £500, where you were offering to repay the debt off at a reasonable rate.

Requirement to Operate Medical Equipment or Refrigerate Medical Equipment

It may be you or someone in your home has to operate medical equipment or keep medicines refrigerated. This is certainly somethin you should bring to the attention of the Energy Firm and point out that if you are not able to guarantee a constant supply of energy, you or a family members welfare may be placed at risk.

Your Physical or Mental Health may be placed at Risk

You can also object if your mental or physical health is poor and could be made worse by the installation of a prepayment meter into your home. 

How to Object to the Remote Switching of a Smart Meter onto Prepayment Mode

The problem is when you are on a Smart Meter, the Energy firm doesn’t need to apply to the Court for a Warrant before switching you over.  This is one reason why you may want to avoid getting a Smart Meter, until such time regulation of how energy switch people when they are on repayment meters become better regulated. 

However, Ofgem have now updated their rules for energy firms and say that firms should only swap a Smart meter onto prepayment meter as a step of last resort and should take all reasonable steps to avoid doing so first.