Simon Read: Households are being left in the cold by prepayment meters


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The Independent Online

Millions of people on prepayment meters face "self-disconnection" from their gas and electricity supplier this winter, warns the campaign group Fuel Poverty Action.

On Monday it will launch an energy bill of rights in Parliament. It is calling for the right to affordable energy and the right not to be disconnected from gas and electricity by a supplier or through lack of funds to feed prepayment meters.

It seems ridiculous that there's a need to ask for such basic rights, but it's a sad commentary on how vulnerable people have tended to be treated by the Government and the big energy companies.

For instance, in 2012, 1,703,380 energy customers were forced to enter into debt repayment arrangements for their gas and electricity accounts.

Meanwhile, more than 10 million people are now on prepayment meters, with over 100,000 – nearly 300 a day – meters being installed on a "warrant visit", which means they're often put in by fitters legally breaking into customers' homes against their will, reckons Fuel Poverty Action.

Recent research by Citizens Advice shows that nearly 700,000 households on prepayment meters are in debt to their supplier and that more than 1.4 million households self-disconnected in 2010.

Fuel Poverty Action's spokesperson, Kerry Smith, argues: "As we face another freezing winter, millions are preparing to self-disconnect, and ration heat and food, while the big energy companies rake in eye-watering profits from burning expensive and climate-destroying fossil fuels.

"The energy companies will continue to break into our homes to install prepayment meters and extort huge sums of money from us, while the Government continues to make housing unaffordable and sell the land under our feet for fracking until we make it clear that we have energy rights and that we will not tolerate being violated in this way."

twitter: @simonnread

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