Energy suppliers have been instructed to ensure that body cameras are worn during visits to prepayment meters.

To safeguard vulnerable customers, the energy regulator has mandated that energy retailers wear body cameras during prepayment meter visits, as part of new measures.

Energy suppliers are no longer permitted to fit prepayment meters in the homes of individuals aged over 85 or those requiring continuous electricity supply for medical purposes.

All suppliers have agreed to the new code of practice on prepayment meter installations, which is currently voluntary, but Ofgem is considering making it a part of licence conditions. According to Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s chief executive, some individuals should never have pre-payment meters installed, and the energy requirements of high-risk groups should receive more protection.

Approximately four million people in the UK use pre-payment meters, which require payment upfront before using energy instead of receiving a bill in arrears from a direct debit account. Pre-payment meters have been a topic of controversy as they have traditionally resulted in higher energy charges for pre-payment customers. There have also been concerns that energy suppliers have forced these meters on vulnerable customers, with suppliers obtaining court warrants to forcibly fit them in homes where bills have not been paid.

The new Ofgem regulations come after The Times conducted an undercover investigation into forcible prepayment meter installations by Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, the UK’s largest supplier.

The newly introduced code of practice mandates that energy suppliers make a minimum of ten attempts to contact a customer before installing a pre-payment meter and conduct welfare visits to the site before installation. These changes apply to England, Wales, and Scotland. While campaigners welcome the changes, they warn that they are not comprehensive enough.

According to Louise Rubin, head of policy and campaigns at Scope, a disability charity, Ofgem has made significant progress in making it tougher for energy suppliers to forcibly install pre-payment meters, but the rules have some grey areas and gaps. She adds that they should have imposed a complete ban.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that the voluntary code of practice is an essential improvement in people’s protection against energy firms’ forced prepayment meter installation. However, it is up to suppliers to adhere to the regulations, and Ofgem must promptly take action against any bad practices.

The regulator must also rapidly make the voluntary code mandatory. Moriarty adds that suppliers should verify whether their current customers are paying for their energy using a prepay meter when it is not a secure option.

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