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Fair play for prepay

Lady making a hot drink

In Autumn 2014, we launched Fair play for prepay, our campaign aimed at getting a fairer deal for the 11m people in Great Britain using prepay energy.

Our research shows prepay energy customers pay an average of £226 more per year than they would on the cheapest online direct debit deals from the same supplier.  They also receive a second class service including:

  • limited top up options
  • little or no choice of tariffs
  • faulty keys and meters
  • poor customer service.

Our evidence also reveals that 16% of prepayment meter users are cut off over the winter: either because they cannot afford to buy more energy or because they are unable to top-up their meter.

Campaign aims

As the statutory consumer watchdog for energy customers, Citizens Advice campaigned to:

  • Improve the customer service and access to advice and support for prepayment meter customers in line with other payment methods;
  • Ensure a fair choice of tariffs and make switching easier, in line with other payment methods;
  • Demand a smarter prepay offer that’s fit for purpose and delivered in a timely manner.

Pay-as-you-go energy customers share their experience

Watch our film about the experiences of pay-as-you-go energy customers, the problems they face and what we want suppliers to do in order to secure a fairer deal for them.

Geoffrey was visited by a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser and a social worker concerned that he was struggling to look after his 14-year-old daughter. The house was freezing and dark, the man sitting wrapped in a duvet on the sofa where he had been mostly for three to four days. It was so cold the adviser could barely take notes.

The social worker asked what he was planning to do for his daughter when she came home from school, as the house was so cold. He explained that he had no money to put in the meter. He was planning to feed her biscuits for tea.

This is a great win for Citizens Advice Fair Play for Prepay campaign. I will continue to work with Citizens Advice towards achieving a better deal for prepay energy customers by asking suppliers to use unallocated payments to help consumers struggling to pay their bills, offer customers more modern ways of topping up their gas and electricity and increasing the number of prepay tariffs available.

Sarah Newton, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth

Our impact

CMA energy market review recommends transitional price control for prepayment following our call to address problems faced by this marginalised group of customers including gap between prices, choice of tariffs and service offered.

Better customer service and support:

  • 7 suppliers committed to offer their most vulnerable customers a ‘debt holiday’ this winter (2015/2016)
  • Main 6 suppliers gave £6 million unallocated payments to help their most vulnerable customers
  • All but 2 suppliers now have a specialist telephone line for their prepay customers

Fair choice and easier switching:

  • Prompted Ofgem review of prepayment, including charges applied by suppliers
  • 11 suppliers now offering at least 2 prepay tariffs
  • Co-operative Energy reduced its prepay tariff prices as a direct result of our campaign

A smarter prepay offer:

  • Over half of all suppliers (9 out of 17) have committed to taking action on our Consumer Demand to make prepay easier to use.
  • Over a third of suppliers (7 out of 17) have agreed to make prepay the same price as their cheapest tariff through smart meters.

Latest #fairprepay news

10 March 2016 - Citizens Advice responds to CMA energy investigation remedies

3 July 2015 - Suppliers respond to our demand for fair pay as you go energy

3 July 2015 - Prepay energy customers paying £226 a year more

25 June 2015 - Prepay energy customers still paying more for less

25 June 2015 - Ofgem’s Prepayment review: understanding supplier charging practices and barriers to switching

26 May 2015 - Ofgem’s statement on prepayment meters installed under warrant

21 May 2015 - E.ON has responded to the needs of prepay customers, says Citizens Advice

9 April 2015 - Getting fair play for prepay

31 March 2015 - Pre-pay energy customers get a second rate service, says Citizens Advice

28 February 2015 - Price comparison websites must include deals from the whole market

11 February 2015 - Delayed energy bill cuts costs customers £47 million

19 January 2015 - Pay-as-you-go energy service: 6 out of 6 ain’t bad but suppliers could do more to improve

16 January 2015 - Energy firms use ‘missing millions’ to help customers

24 December 2014 - Energy firms urged to offer prepay customers a ‘debt holiday’

26 November 2014 - Prepayment meter customers “footing the bill for energy firms’ errors”

17 November 2014 - Families need more options to top up energy prepayment meters

1 October 2014 - 1.62 million prepayment energy consumers cuts off each year

1 October 2014 - We need energy initiatives that focus on the most vulnerable consumers now – prepayment meter customers are a good place to start

1 October 2014 - Topping-up or dropping-out: self-disconnection among prepayment meter users

26 September 2014 - Will the smart meter rollout help vulnerable consumers?

18 August 2014 - Energy suppliers must take every opportunity to do the right thing