British Gas no longer applying for warrants to fit prepayment meters
Parent company, Centrica will also launch an investigation into the claims made by The Times
British Gas has suspended warrant activity amid claims that the company obtains warrants to allow debt collectors to force entry into “vulnerable” customers’ homes and fit prepayment meters.
Energy companies can obtain court warrants which give them legal rights to enter people’s homes and fit prepayment meters if customers have not paid their bills.
Customers must then top up to continue receiving gas supplies, and if they fail to do so they risk their heating being cut off.
The Times reported that British Gas sends debt collectors to “break into” people’s homes and “force-fit” pay-as-you-go meters – even when customers are known to have “extreme vulnerabilities”.
An undercover reporter for the newspaper worked for debt collecting contractor Arvato and accompanied agents who used court warrants to gain entry into customers’ homes to force-fit these meters.
Some of the “vulnerable” customers the Times reporter came across while working at Arvato included a single father with three young children and a mother with a four-week-old baby.
Owner of British Gas, Centrica, announced it was suspending “all warrant activity” after the newspaper’s article was published.
The parent company will also launch an investigation into the claims.
Centrica chief executive officer Chris O’Shea said, “Protecting vulnerable customers is an absolute priority and we have clear processes and policies to ensure we manage customer debt carefully and safely.
“The allegations around our third-party contractor Arvato are unacceptable and we immediately suspended their warrant activity.
“Having recently reviewed our internal processes to support our prepayment customers as well as creating a new £10 million fund to support those prepayment customers who need help the most, I am extremely disappointed that this has occurred.
“As a result, on Wednesday morning, we took a further decision to suspend all our prepayment warrant activity at least until the end of the winter.
“More broadly, there are clearly significant challenges around affordability and unfortunately, we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
“We need to strike a balance between managing spiralling bad debt and being aware that there are those who refuse to pay and those who cannot pay. We think Government, industry and the regulator need to come together to agree a long-term plan to address this and ultimately create an energy market that is sustainable.”Published: by Radio NewsHub