The power curate has expressed “horror” astatine revelations astir a British Gas contractor allegedly breaking into susceptible customers’ homes arsenic nan marketplace watchdog Ofgem warned each suppliers against forcibly installing prepayment meters.
Graham Stuart met Chris O’Shea, nan main executive of Centrica, which owns British Gas, and demanded urgent answers to issues raised by a Times investigation into nan firm’s practices, which has prompted ministerial fury.
Stuart expressed scary aft nan Times alleged that Arvato Financial Solutions, utilized by British Gas to prosecute debts, had surgery into homes to fresh prepayment meters moreover erstwhile location were signs that young children and group pinch disabilities lived there.
British Gas customers who person had their meters fitted by unit precocious included a mother whose “daughter is abnormal and has a hoist and [an] electrical wheelchair” and a female successful her 50s described successful occupation notes arsenic “severe intelligence wellness bipolar”.
Stuart “made it clear this benignant of behaviour is unacceptable”, according to a connection aft nan gathering from nan business, power and business strategy department.
O’Shea has been asked to supply urgent answers connected issues including nan specifications of nan cases, really nan institution will guarantee it will ne'er hap again, and really those affected tin beryllium identified and compensated. Earlier nan Centrica main executive had said: “Protecting susceptible customers is an absolute privilege … The allegations astir our third-party contractor Arvato are unacceptable and we instantly suspended their warrant activity.” British Gas has announced that it will extremity applying for tribunal warrants to participate customers’ homes and fresh prepayment meters.
In a abstracted statement, Jonathan Brearley, the main executive of nan power regulator, Ofgem, said suppliers needed to “get their location successful order” and said each firms had been asked to region nan forcible installation of prepayment meters.
“No power CEO tin shirk their ineligible and civilized responsibilities to protect their ain customers, particularly nan astir vulnerable,” said Brearley, whose organisation is already looking into nan wider usage of nan meters.
“These are superior allegations for British Gas to woody pinch and we are opening a broad investigation into British Gas connected this rumor and we will not hesitate to return nan strongest action needed.”
Addressing nan company’s rivals, he said: “Suppliers request to reassure america that nan processes for customers being moved connected to prepayment meters are compliant pinch each Ofgem rules and, until this is done, we person asked them to region forced installations.”
Earlier, nan caller bailiffs’ watchdog urged power suppliers to overhaul their indebtedness postulation practices successful nan aftermath of nan revelations.
Catherine Brown, nan chair of nan precocious established Enforcement Conduct Board (ECB), is penning to nan main executives of nan utilities aft British Gas apologised for its actions.
Hundreds of thousands of homes person been switched complete to prepayment this wintertime aft falling down connected their bills amid a surge successful power prices, pinch nan complaint of installation importantly up of erstwhile years.
The ECB was group up to constabulary nan activities of “civil enforcement agents” – nan bailiffs utilized by creditors including section authorities to cod debts specified arsenic assembly taxation – and Brown said firms specified arsenic Arvato “have not yet travel nether our oversight”.
But she based on that nan British Gas ungraded underlined nan urgent request for power companies to guarantee that anyone progressive successful enforcement action connected their behalf is decently regulated.
“Today’s news demonstrates why it is truthful important that utilities companies prosecute pinch america to guarantee that adjacent curen is delivered to each their customers who acquisition immoderate shape of enforcement action, including ensuring that susceptible group are decently identified and supported,” she said.
Brown has truthful acold grounded to person nan utilities to work together to usage only agents accredited by nan ECB to cod unpaid power debts – a cardinal lever for nan caller agency, which does not person statutory powers.
Government figures show location were 275,000 applications successful 2019 for warrants to undertake forced metre installations, and 345,000 applications successful nan 11 months to December past year.