Energy firms will not be allowed to force-fit pre-pay meters in homes until they “get their act in order” and obey new rules to protect vulnerable customers. Tuesday’s pledge by Jonathan Brearley, the boss of regulator Ofgem, came after a probe revealed debt agents for British Gas broke into homes last month to install the devices.
Firms were then banned from fitting them under warrant until March 31.
Mr Brearley told MPs on a joint parliamentary committee he expected a code of practice to be in place by the end of the month.
But he added: “Our priority is making sure this industry gets its act in order. Therefore, they will not be restarting forced installation at the end of March and only when and if they can establish they’re acting in accordance with that new code.”
MPs were told magistrates granted a “staggering” 536,139 warrants from energy firms from July 2021 to December 2022.
Just 75 were refused. Chris O’Shea, CEO of British Gas owner Centrica, said weeks before The Times’ expose, a review found no problems with the way sub-contractor Arvato Financial Solutions behaved.
He said: “The allegations that there was improper behaviour is what came to my attention through media reports. What we immediately did was to suspend work with Arvato and to launch an investigation to understand whether the instances reported were isolated or systemic. That report is ongoing now.”
Mr O’Shea added: “Since The Times report, around 300 customers have written to us to say that they feel they’ve been moved incorrectly. If that’s the case, we will reverse it, we will make it right.”