British Gas Forced Installation of Pre-Paid Meters Sparks Outrage
A British energy company, British Gas, is under investigation by the energy regulator Ofgem after The Times newspaper revealed that agents working for the company Arvato Financial Solutions – employed by British Gas to collect debts on its behalf – had broken into homes of vulnerable customers who had fallen behind on their energy bills, using court orders to install prepaid meters.
An undercover reporter for The Times witnessed a locksmith breaking in to a single father’s home with three children to install a prepaid gas meter. Other meters were forcibly installed in the home of a young mother with a small child, a mother of a disabled girl, and another woman with mobility issues.
Ofgem considers such activity “unacceptable”, and has opened a “urgent investigation” into the accusations. British Gas owner Centrica promised to suspend activities related to forced installations and open an investigation in response.
Grant Shapps, the British Minister of Enterprise, reacted with horror to the news, demanding that British Gas produces answers to “ensure this systematic failure is addressed”. A meeting with the energy company will take place in the coming days.
Energy companies in the UK are required by law to resort to installing a prepaid meter only as a “last resort”, after exhausting all alternatives. This form of payment is known to be more expensive than a direct debit system, but the only option for people with difficulties in paying their bills.