Money – The Sun
BRITISH Gas yesterday halted the use of warrants to force entry into customers’ homes and fit prepayment meters.
The climbdown came after an undercover reporter claimed third-party firm Arvato was ignoring some people’s vulnerabilities.
British Gas has halted the use of warrants to force entry into customers’ homes and fit prepayment meters
It is reported that debt collectors “brake into” people’s homes and “force-fit” pay-as-you-go meters.
Warrants give energy firms the legal right to enter homes and install the kit.
Customers must then top up payments to receive gas, or risk their heating being cut off.
The Times reporter said he visited a single dad with three kids while with Arvato, and agents were sent to a mum with a four-week-old baby.
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.”
He added: “I am extremely disappointed that this has occurred.”
Energy regulator Ofgem has also announced it will launch an investigation.
A spokesman said: “These are extremely serious allegations from The Times which we will investigate urgently with British Gas and we won’t hesitate to take firm enforcement action.
“We recently announced a major market-wide review investigating the rapid growth in prepayment meter installations and potential breaches of licences driving it. We are clear that suppliers must work hard to look after their customers at this time, especially those who are vulnerable, and the energy crisis must not be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour towards any customer – particularly those in vulnerable circumstances.”
Arvato Financial Solutions has been contacted for comment.