“A voluntary code is inadequate and is not the answer.”
County Cllr Julie Gibson, the Labour Group Shadow Cabinet Member for Economic Development has criticised a new code of conduct introduced by OFGEM to tackle forced meter fittings, calling it “inadequate” and not fit for purpose. Industry guidelines being introduced over which homes can be forcibly switched to a prepayment energy meter, have been criticised by campaigners who want a total ban as there are fears the Code, which is voluntary, will not be enforced.
Cllr Gibson said: “An estimated 600,000 people were forced to switch to prepayment meters after struggling to pay their bills last year, up from 380,000 in 2021, according to figures from Citizens Advice. Under this new Code, energy firms must now try to contact a customer at least ten times and do a “site welfare visit” before they can forcibly install a prepayment meter. Guidelines say installations should also not take place where people have severe health issues – including terminal illness – and in homes of people 85 and over. But the fact that the Code is voluntary and only gives “guidelines” is a concern that needs to be addressed.”
She continued: “This Code has been introduced in answer to the many examples of forced entry that was being carried out by energy firms. Fitting was halted after agents broke into the homes of vulnerable people and after media investigations that exposed the actions of agents for British Gas, which led to a public outcry. I would question whether energy firms can be trusted to judge their own performance against a voluntary code especially when they tried to take the journalist involved to court to prevent the exposure of this cruel and callous act.”
Cllr Gibson said: “Ofgem’s new Code of Conduct is a belated response to an issue that was unfolding but took exposure in the national media to force it to act. As people across Lancashire continue to struggle with a cost of living crisis, we need to see a much tighter monitoring of the Code so that it is mandatory and enforceable but more than that we need the Government to introduce a total ban on forcible fitting so that vulnerable people will no longer feel scared in their own homes.”