On 15 September 2014, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to two written questions on the subject of energy companies, pre-payment meters and impact on vulnerable customers.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to encouraging the six largest energy companies to develop and use their own vulnerability checklist as part of a comprehensive assessment process to help determine a household’s circumstances before any new pre-payment meters are installed, in accordance with the voluntary code agreed with Consumer Focus in March 2011
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): All the large suppliers have agreed to the 5 key principles set out by Consumer Focus in March 2011. This includes a check of whether a customer is vulnerable before installation of a prepayment meter and offering a different payment method if appropriate. In the 2012 report “Making Progress” Consumer Focus found that most large suppliers use a checklist to help staff identify the best approach. This report is available at this link:
Government supports initiatives to ensure that vulnerable pre-payment customers are being treated fairly and receiving appropriate support and is considering areas where Government action could further improve the consumer experience of pre-payment customers.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will work with energy companies to ensure that those using pre-payment meters pay the equivalent tariffs to those paying by direct debit, irrespective of whether smart meters are installed.
Baroness Verma: Energy supplier licence conditions, set by Ofgem, allow suppliers to apply different charges to different payment methods providing the differentials reflect the costs to the supplier of the form of payment. This allowance is made in recognition of the fact that some payment methods are more expensive to administer than others. In May 2014, Ofgem published the results of analysis on this issue which showed that across the market the price on different payment methods reflects the varying costs suppliers face in providing them. This is available at the following link: