December 15, 2014 8.00 am This story is over 107 months old

Fair play for prepay meters

Fair Play for Prepay: Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau is collecting evidence for a national campaign to get a better deal for pay-as-you-go energy customers.

Do you have a prepayment meter for your home fuel needs? If so you will be paying around £80 a year more for their energy than direct debit customers while getting a poorer service and facing a greater risk of being cut off.

Prepayment customers have little or no choice of energy tariff and limited means of topping up their metres. When things go wrong with meters or their keys, users experience a poor customer service to put things right.

Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau is collecting evidence for a national campaign, Fair Play for Prepay, to get a better deal for pay-as-you-go energy customers.

Our research so far shows that 1 in 6 people will self-disconnect from their meters because they cannot afford to top up or get to a top-up facility.

Half of prepayment households have children and almost half of advisers who dealt with a meter problem for clients referred them to a food bank.

If you have a meter you can help by taking our survey to help Citizens Advice establish patterns of energy use in winter and you can sign our petition.

As the statutory consumer watchdog or energy customers Citizens Advice is campaigning for the following on behalf of all meter users.

A better price

  • Pay-as-you-go is the cheapest payment method available.
  • Free access to near real time electricity use, account information in pounds and pence, details of standing charges and debt repayments 
to help customers budget and become more energy efficient.
  • An equal amount of pay-as-you-go tariff options compared 
to other payment methods

More control

  • A choice of ways to top up such as by phone, text, or online
in addition to cash top-ups over the counter at a convenient location.
  • Switching supplier to/from pay-as-you-go is made easier and free of charge – no more security deposits and fees for meter exchanges.
  • Free low credit alerts – a text or alarm on the smart energy display 
to warn when credit is low.
  • A ‘lifeline’ supply of electricity or gas at all times, even when 
a customer has been unable to top up their meter.

Easier use

  • No more misdirected payments.
  • No more cards or payment keys that need to be inserted in the meter, which can be lost, stolen or broken at a cost and inconvenience 
to the customer.
  • A free 24hr helpline for mobiles and landlines.

Amanda McSorley joined the Research and Campaigns Team at Lincoln and District Citizens Advice Bureau in February 2013. She is a former journalist and newspaper editor, with 30 years’ experience of covering the issues that impact people’s lives.