British Gas vows to NOT remotely switch customers to prepayment meters

British Gas vows not to remotely switch customers to prepayment meters and promises non-repayable credit up to £250 for most vulnerable

  • British Gas owner Centrica says it won’t remotely switch to prepayment meters
  • Centrica set it was committing further £10m worth of support for the vulnerable 
  • Grant Shapps says officials ‘actively working’ on issue of self-disconnection  

British Gas owner Centrica has revealed it is committing £10million worth of customer support for vulnerable prepayment customers.

The funding commitment comes as part of the introduction of new policies ‘to ensure help gets to those who need it most,’ Centrica said on Wednesday. 

Under the new policies, Centrica customers will not be remotely switched to prepayment meters this winter, unless a customer expressly requests it.  

According to research from Citizens Advice last week, around 3.2million people across Britain ran out of credit on their prepayment meter last year, the equivalent of one every 10 seconds.

Promises: Centrica said its customers will not be remotely switched to prepayment meters this winter

Centrica said discretionary support like non-repayable credit of up to £250 on the prepayment meters for those struggling with energy costs will be made available.

‘British Gas will identify those who would most benefit for this and there is no need for customers to apply’, the group added.

Centrica said it will also undertake ‘enhanced processes’ around assessing and identifying vulnerable customers to ensure support is targeted where it is needed, and self-disconnections are identified. 

The firm said it would also ensure that those who are struggling with energy costs have smart prepayment meters to make sure any issues are identified quickly.

While Centrica did state that customers would not be switched remotely to prepayment meters, it did not say that in-person installations would not take place. 

Many households have been switched from monthly bills to pay-as-you-go tariffs through their smart meters, without energy suppliers needing to enter their home to fit a meter. 

Labour has called for an immediate moratorium for the duration of the winter on the forced installation of prepayment meters.

On Tuesday, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs that officials were ‘actively working’ on the issue of the scale of disconnection of people on prepayment energy meters.

He told MPs: ‘We do not want to see people cut off during this cold weather.’

Chris O’Shea, Centrica’s chief executive, said today: ‘We know that some prepayment customers are self-disconnecting and not coming forward for help, so we have reviewed our policies to do more to target support at this group. 

‘As a responsible business we are doing all we can to support our customers during this crisis – our work with the British Gas Energy Trust provides grants and money advice services.

‘As well as helping our customers with much needed cash grants, I’m really proud of how our teams are giving expert advice and support at this busy time to help guide people through this crisis.

‘Our call centres are helping around a million energy customers each month with their bills and our engineers are in homes every day advising customers on how to be more energy efficient and make savings.’

Centrica added: ‘British Gas has a £50million voluntary support package in place and has already committed to contributing 10 percent of energy supply profits to the British Gas Energy Support Fund for the duration of the energy crisis, backdated to the start of 2022. 

‘The £18 million British Gas Energy Support fund has been providing grants up to £1,500 to those in need since the start of the crisis.’ 

On 12 January Centrica lifted its earnings guidance again as volumes from its electricity generation and gas production operations remained strong amid surging energy prices for consumers.

In a brief trading statement, the company said it expected its full-year adjusted earnings per share to be above 30p, compared with a previous estimate of between 15.1p and 26p provided on 10 November. The company said it expected 2022 closing net cash to be above £1billion.

The group unveiled hefty half-year profits of £1.34billion in July.

Centrica shares rose 0.89 per cent or 0.84p to 98.06p this afternoon, having jumped over 30 per cent in the last year.