Bristol news Ofgem says 'vulnerable' customers left without power for weeks PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - The director of retail has written a letter raising concern over people being switched remotely via their smart meters
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! An estimated 60,000 people in the UK have been switched over to prepayment meters in the last six months alone. Asides from being more expensive, the meters leave people in a state of constant insecurity, where their heating could be turned off if they don’t have money to top it up or aren’t able to get out of the house. Bristol Live reported on a recent case where a mother-of-three whose youngest child is just one had her smart meter remotely switched into a prepayment meter by OVO energy. Mirna Mestrovic who lives in Easton and was struggling to pay for energy after her bill shot up and said that the move had pushed her over the edge. Previously energy companies would need to obtain a court warrant to enforce a prepayment meter upon a customer who was struggling to pay their bills. Smart meters allow companies to bypass such regulations and Ofgem has noted that more needs to be done to take into account the vulnerability of a customer who is in energy debt. READ MORE: Mum-of-three forced on to prepayment meter by Ovo after energy bill doubled within a month In regards to Mirna’s case, a spokesperson for the energy company SSE (now owned by OVO) said: “We have offered Ms Mestrovic support via OVO’s Customer Support Package to ensure she gets the help she needs. We can confirm her electric meter is now in credit mode and we’re arranging a more manageable payment plan for her.” According to Ofgem regulations, prepayment meters can only be installed if it is considered ‘safe’ and ‘practical’ to do so and the vulnerability of the customer needs to be taken into account. Energy companies are not permitted to remotely switch customers prior to carrying out necessary assessments. Ofgem director of retail Neill Lawrence wrote in a recent letter that energy companies need to review their obligations as a matter of urgency.
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. A spokesperson for Ofgem said: “As a robust regulator we take proactive steps to protect energy customers. Through our constant monitoring of suppliers and work with stakeholders, we’ve become aware of possible failings in how some suppliers treat vulnerable smart meter consumers, including some customers being switched to prepayment meters without full regard to the customer’s situation. “In extreme cases the reports we’ve received suggest this has led to some vulnerable customers being left without power for days or even weeks. This is completely unacceptable, especially as we head into a very challenging winter. “That’s why, last week, we wrote to all suppliers to tell them to urgently look into this issue, to remind them of their obligations and to make clear that they must have effective checks and balances in place when switching the mode of a smart meter. We won’t hesitate to take action off the back of this work where failings are found. “Through a number of market compliance reviews, we are also looking more widely at how suppliers support vulnerable customers overall, such as those with disabilities, and that includes how people are treated when they are switched to pre-payment meters. The results of this will be published soon, with ratings for each supplier. “We expect improvement plans to be delivered at speed and won’t hesitate to take punitive action where needed. Standards of service across the industry need to improve.” READ NEXT: Resident says fire broke out inside ‘flammable’ council block and ‘nobody knew’ Mum locks herself in Travelodge as she and son cannot face returning to scene of tower block blaze Met Office weather warning to bring more downpours and gusty winds to Bristol Two thirds of adults will say they are 'fine' this Christmas - even if they're not DWP will replace these six benefits by 2024 - are you affected? ACORN sets up in Hillfields, Bristol's 'forgotten' estate
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