Almost two million people are facing winter weather without heating

Energy firms can’t cut off vulnerable customers until next April, but that won't save many

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From today, energy firms can’t cut off vulnerable customers until next April. That’s to ensure that people are able to heat their homes through severe cold spells.

But almost 2 million of the most vulnerable people will, shockingly, still be left with no power at all in their homes this winter. That’s because they have pre-payment meters and don’t top them up because of the cost or the meter is faulty or too difficult to use.

New research from Citizens Advice suggests the number of people who effectively self-disconnect is as high as one in six, leaving an estimated 1.62 million people facing heat-free homes at some stage this winter.

But analysis of energy firms’ approaches to self-disconnection shows that most firms only contact vulnerable consumers a month after they last topped up. It can be up to three months for consumers who are not believed to be vulnerable.

“It is very concerning that, as temperatures start to drop and the nights draw in, some prepayment consumers will be living in cold, dark homes because they can’t afford to put money on their meters,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

In many cases, people are left without power as they run out of credit or aren’t able to get to a shop to top up. Citizens Advice is launching a Fair Play for Prepay campaign to help get a better deal for these households.

The charity wants better customer service and support with easier top-ups and a fair choice of tariffs for prepay consumers.

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