By B.N. Frank
Utility providers in the UK have been rather aggressively forcing consumers to accept prepayment “smart” meters and this has led to much public outcry and bad press (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). While new rules will prevent some Brits from being forced onto prepayment meters, it won’t stop force-fitting for all of them.
British Gas stops using contractors to force-fit prepayment meters
British Gas has said it will carry out any future force-fitting of prepayment meters itself following an outcry over how a contractor had behaved.
A report by the Times found agents acting for British Gas had forced their way into vulnerable people’s homes.
A review found there had been “no systemic issues” with prepayment meters (PPMs) fitted under warrant.
However, it added that in a small number of cases, “things have gone wrong”.
The revelations in the Times of how some people working for a third-party contractor – Arvato Financial Solutions – had behaved led to a temporary ban on all forced energy prepayment fittings.
British Gas said it was “permanently” ending all activity with the contractor and would bring the work in-house.
Arvato said its contract with the company had been ended “by mutual agreement” as part of its decision to stop providing in-person debt collection services.
The ban on force-fitting meters under warrant has now been lifted, but under guidance from energy regulator Ofgem, customers must be given more chance to clear debts and forced meter fittings are banned in homes with residents all aged over 85.
All energy suppliers in England, Scotland and Wales have signed up to Ofgem’s code of conduct, under which they have to make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer and conduct a “site welfare visit” before a prepayment meter is installed.
Representatives fitting the meters will also have to wear body cameras or audio equipment.
The report for British Gas, which was carried out by independent regulatory compliance consultancy, Promontory Financial Services, found that two customers had been forced onto PPMs incorrectly last year.
In two other cases it also found the contractor had acted in a way which “fell below the standard of conduct expected”.
Responding to the report, Chris O’Shea, the chief executive of Centrica, which owns British Gas, said: “I was deeply concerned when I saw the way some of our prepayment customers were treated earlier this year.
“It’s not how I want us to do business and I’d like to take this opportunity once again to say how sorry I am and to apologise to anyone involved in cases where our actions fell short of the high standards we set ourselves.”
In a statement, Arvato said that following the findings, “there are of course lessons that have and will continue to be learned by all parties involved”.
“We have now taken the decision that we will no longer provide in-person debt collection services, regardless of whether or not such activity recommences,” it added.
- Anger as energy meter force-fittings set to resume
- Forced prepayment meter instalment ban extended
- British Gas boss takes bonus despite criticism
Of course all “smart” meters – electric, gas, and water – have proven to be problematic, not just prepayment “smart” meters. Opposition to their deployment has been worldwide for over a decade due to ongoing and increasing issues associated with them including
- billing errors and higher bills (see 1, 2, 3)
- cybersecurity risks, hacking and disconnection (see 1, 2)
- fires and explosions (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- installation mishaps (see 1, 2)
- harmful radiation emissions (see 1, 2, 3)
- mechanical problems
- privacy concerns and
- short lifespans
Nevertheless, utility providers and other proponents continue to promote “smart” meters as being accurate, beneficial to consumers, essential for “energy efficiency”, and safe despite articles, reports, research, and testimonials indicating otherwise (see 1, 2, 3, 4). Argh!
Activist Post reports regularly about “smart” meters and other privacy invasive and unsafe technologies. For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:
- Stop Smart Meters UK
- Coalition to Stop Smart Meters
- Stop Smart Meters.org
- Smart Meter Harm
- Smart Meter News
- Smart Grid Awareness
- Take Back Your Power
- Children’s Health Defense
- Environmental Health Trust
- Physicians for Safe Technology
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