This month I was alarmed and distressed to read a newspaper article revealing that British Gas had routinely sent debt collectors to break into some customers’ homes and force fitted pay-as-you-go meters, even when the customers are known to have extreme vulnerabilities.
I do not believe the Government’s response on this issue has been good enough. It has been far too slow to act. Ofgem did reviews in September and November and highlighted the problem, while in early January Citizens Advice reported that three million people on prepayment meters had been disconnected by the back door. Yet even after that, the Government refused to put in place an outright ban on the forced installation of prepayment meters. As a result of this inaction, over 30,000 people had warrants issued for forced installations in the past month alone.
No family in Britain should have to go without the heat and power they need to get by. Even in a period of high energy prices, it should be the number one priority of the government and the energy regulator to do everything they can to ensure that people’s heat and power is not cut off.
We do not cut off people’s water supply in this country because that would be inhumane so why shouldn’t energy companies have to supply a minimum amount of power to all customers, as in France, so that nobody is cut off and left to suffer in cold, dark accommodation?
Therefore I am supporting calls to ban forced installations while we properly reform our energy sector. With energy companies forcing their way into people’s homes and millions getting disconnected by the back door, Rishi Sunak cannot blame others for what is his government’s dereliction of duty. He is standing by while families across the country are being cut off.
If you need help or advice on how to manage your energy bills, my constituency office is open to the public on Mondays between 2 pm and 4 pm, and Wednesdays between 10 am and 12 pm. My upcoming constituency surgeries are advertised on my website. If you are unable to attend a drop in or surgery but would like to raise a casework query, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE FROM OFGEM 21st FEBRUARY 2023
Ofgem, has today set out the next steps in the British Gas investigation and Prepayment Meter (PPM) review to support and protect energy customers when suppliers fit PPMs by force or via remote switch.
Ofgem CEO, Jonathan Brearley, has also called on all suppliers to use the pause in installations (lasting until 31 March 2023) to review all of their recent forced and remotely switched PPM installations, and consider if any need to be reversed, and compensation offered where the strict rules have not been followed.
Jonathan Brearley said:
“As a result of the unprecedented surge in energy prices, households across the country are facing significant energy bills and this has meant many are finding themselves in debt and being forced onto prepayment meters (PPMs). I am concerned about the way customers in already distressing situations are being treated when suppliers force them onto PPMs. That’s why, today, we have set out further details on the two investigations, one into British Gas for potential breaches that have been alleged indicating that something went very badly wrong at British Gas and the other into PPMs across all suppliers to assess whether this is an isolated case.
“The rules and regulations are clear that installing forced PPMs should only be done as a last resort and only where it is safe and practicable to do so. We expect suppliers to treat customers with compassion and professionalism and those executing a warrant should take into account what they find when they visit a home and pause the installation if they see a safety risk. Where this hasn’t happened, we will hold suppliers to account.
“However, I’m telling suppliers not to wait for the outcome of our reviews and to act now to check that PPMs have been installed appropriately, and if rules have been broken, offer customers a reversal of installations and compensation payments where appropriate. There will also be fines issued from Ofgem if the issue is found to be systemic.
“We are taking this issue extremely seriously and customers should feel reassured that where the rules have been broken, Ofgem will act.”
The regulator has today announced:
I believe online safety is a serious issue affecting children and parents in Gower, which is why I believe they need to be at the forefront of making sure children and young people are kept safe online.
This week I joined with schools, charities, and businesses across the UK to pledge my support for making the internet a safer place for children and young people.
February 7 was Safer Internet Day, a globally recognised celebration promoting the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.
The event, coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), is celebrated more than a hundred countries and this year’s theme is “Want to talk about it? Making space for conversations about life online.”
New research by the UKSIC reveals that, children and young people are keen to engage with their parents about their online lives. 57% of children believe they can play a role in educating their parents and carers about life online as research also revealed that many parents (36%) are unsure of where to turn should they need support.
A spokesperson for the UK Safer Internet Centre said: “It is vital that we reach as many children and their parents and carers as possible.
“Safer Internet Day engages children and young people across the UK to encourage them to have a conversation about their online safety. The UK Safer Internet Centre provides lots of information and advice to parents, carers, schools and children about online safety, and we would encourage anyone to check out the support we provide.
“But we also need policymakers to act now to put children at the heart of the new Online Safety Bill, by empowering them, giving them a voice and progressing with this vital legislation as soon as is practicably possible. We were delighted to be in Parliament today with our young digital leaders to discuss their hopes and aspirations for the Online Safety Bill.”
I urge constituents who are concerned about online safety to visit https://saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/safer-internet-day-2022
Over 7000 families in Gower face an annual mortgage payment increase of £2100 under the Conservatives.
Labour analysis reveals that the average household in Gower is set to be put under more pressure than ever by Conservative mismanagement of the economy.
Analysis from the Labour Party allows people to search the amount that mortgages are predicted to rise, including by £2100 in Gower.
It follows the Bank of England warning in December that around half of households with a mortgage, a total of 4 million, will be exposed to rate rises this year, and Bloomberg reporting that around 800,000 will see their mortgage rates double.
This week, the IMF chief economist singled out higher mortgage rates as a reason for Britain’s poor performance after the country’s growth was downgraded, leaving it as the only major economy expected to shrink in 2023.
Tonia Antoniazzi, Welsh Labour MP for Gower, said:
“The Tory mortgage penalty is devastating for family finances and is holding back our economy.
“The country is buckling under 13 years of Conservative mismanagement, and it is families being asked to pay more on their mortgage once again.
“People are asking themselves whether they or their family are better off under the Tories. The answer is no.
“By stabilising the economy, making it stronger and getting it growing, Labour will stop us lurching from crisis to crisis, and make Britain thrive again.”