British Gas pledges not to remotely switch customers to prepaid meters and promises a non-refundable credit of up to £250 for the most vulnerable
- British Gas owner Centrica says it won’t switch to prepayment meters remotely
- Centrica has decided to commit an additional £10million in support of vulnerable people
- Grant Shapps says officials are “actively working” on self-disconnect issue
British Gas owner Centrica has revealed it is committing £10million in customer support for vulnerable prepayment customers.
The funding commitment is part of the introduction of new policies “to ensure aid reaches those who need it most,” Centrica said on Wednesday.
Under the new policies, Centrica customers will not be remotely switched to prepayment meters this winter unless a customer specifically requests it.
According to research by Citizens Advice last week, around 3.2million people across Britain ran out of credit on their prepaid meter last year, the equivalent of one every 10 seconds.
Promises: Centrica said its customers will not be remotely switched to prepayment meters this winter
Centrica said discretionary support like a non-refundable credit of up to £250 on prepaid meters for those struggling with energy costs will be made available.
“British Gas will identify those who would benefit most and customers do not need to apply,” the group added.
Centrica said it would also undertake “enhanced processes” to assess and identify vulnerable customers to ensure assistance is targeted where needed and self-disconnects are identified.
The company said it would also ensure that those struggling with energy costs have prepayment smart meters to ensure any problems are identified quickly.
Although Centrica said customers would not be remotely switched to prepaid meters, it did not say that in-person installations would not take place.
Many households have switched from monthly bills to pay-as-you-go tariffs through their smart meters, without energy providers needing to enter their homes to install a meter.
Labor has called for an immediate moratorium for the duration of winter on the forced installation of prepayment meters.
On Tuesday, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs that officials were “actively working” on the issue of the extent of people being disconnected on energy meters at prepayment.
He told MPs: ‘We don’t want to see people cut off during this cold weather.
Chris O’Shea, Managing Director of Centrica, said today: “We know that some prepay customers are disconnecting on their own and not asking for help, so we have reviewed our policies to do more to target assistance to this group.
“As a responsible business, we are doing all we can to support our customers during this crisis – our work with the British Gas Energy Trust provides grants and financial advice services.
“As well as helping our clients with much-needed cash grants, I am truly proud of how our teams are providing expert advice and support during this busy time to help guide people through this crisis.
“Our call centers help around one million energy customers pay their bills every month and our engineers are on the doorstep every day advising customers on how to be more energy efficient and save money.”
Centrica added: ‘British Gas has a £50m voluntary support scheme in place and has already committed to paying 10% of energy supply profits to the British Gas Energy Support Fund for the duration of the energy crisis, with retroactive effect from the beginning of 2022.
“The UK’s £18m Gas Power Support Fund has provided grants of up to £1,500 to those in need since the crisis began.”
January 12 Centrica raised its profit forecast again as volumes in its power generation and gas production businesses remained strong amid soaring energy prices for consumers.
In a brief trading statement, the company said it expected full-year adjusted earnings per share to be above 30p, down from a previous estimate of between 15.1 and 26p provided the November 10. The company said it expected 2022 closing net cash to be over £1 billion.
The group unveiled strong half-year profits of £1.34 billion in July.
Centrica shares rose 0.99% or 0.96p to 98.18p today, after jumping more than 30% last year.