Topping up or dropping out
Topping up or dropping out: self-disconnection among prepayment meter users
To better understand how and why prepayment meter (PPM) users self-disconnect, Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland have carried out comprehensive research, the findings of which can be found in our report.
Along with quantitative research amongst prepayment meter users, we held interviews with bureau advisers and clients who have experience of self-disconnection and analysed energy supplier current policy and practice toward PPM customers.
In the report we make four key recommendations and detail the next steps that need to be taken by Ofgem, government and industry.
1. Monitor and understand how consumers use their PPM
It is essential that suppliers aim to achieve a better understanding of how their PPM customers use their meter now in order to identify and address how they can target help and support.
2. Prepare for changes to the welfare system
This will require greater communication and coordination within the energy industry as well as between suppliers and third party agencies that support consumers – crucially this must also involve the Department for Work and Pensions and jobcentres.
3. Consider the unintended implications
Our research among bureau advisers and clients highlighted that PPM consumers who are self-disconnecting also have other significant problems and cannot afford many essentials, such as food. In 43 per cent of cases the advisers were referring consumers to food banks, and in 35 per cent of cases clients were also given appointments for debt advice, suggesting they had other significant debts.
4. Prioritise pre-pay options in the smart meter rollout
In the longer term, it is essential to build solutions to end the short-term fixes such as providing emergency funds when there is a temporary crisis and a consumer cannot afford energy.