On 18th August 2014, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to two written question on energy meters for lower income households.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the use of prepayment meters on the ability of lower income households to pay their energy bills.
Baroness Northover: Since 2010, all major suppliers have voluntarily equalised tariffs between prepayment customers and standard credit customers but the price differential between customers using pre-payment meters (PPM) and those paying by direct debit can be more than £100 for a dual-fuel customer.
Whilst paying by PPM is more common among fuel poor than non-fuel poor households, a majority of fuel poor customer pay by other payment methods.
Of households who were fuel poor in England in 2012, around 27% paid for their electricity and 22% paid for their gas through PPM.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to encourage the six major energy companies to adhere to the five principles on the use of prepayment meters which were agreed with Consumer Focus in March 2011.
Baroness Northover: In July 2012, Consumer Focus released a report, ‘Making Progress’ which found that suppliers have all made changes to their policies and processes following their agreement to the 5 Key Principles that Consumer Focus set out in March 2011.
We know that issues relating to prepayment meters (PPM) remain of broad concern for consumers. The roll out of smart metering should greatly improve the customer experience for prepayment customers. In April 2014, the Secretary of State wrote to suppliers challenging them to ensure that from the end of 2016 current ‘normal’ PPM are replaced only with Smart Meters and offer Smart Meters with ‘pay as you go tariff’ options to all PPM customers by the end of 2016. We will continue to work with suppliers and stakeholders to ensure that PPM customers can benefit from smart meter roll out as soon as possible.