Nearly 100,000 prepayment energy meters forcibly installed last year

More than 94,000 prepayment meters were installed in homes in Britain throughout 2022, government figures show.

The meters were installed by energy providers such as British Gas, Scottish Power and OVO Energy using court-sought warrants and without customer consent.

Those three providers were behind 70% of installations, the government said, and fitted 66,187 devices under warrant.

The greatest number - 25,000 - were installed under warrant by British Gas. Scottish Power followed closely behind with 24,320, and Ovo installed 16,867 prepayment meters under warrant.

The practice of forced installation attracted widespread condemnation and the energy regulator Ofgem began an investigation.

A temporary pause in forced installation, which has been extended beyond the end of March, was announced by the regulator and British Gas said it will not conduct any forced installations until at least the end of April.

Ofgem also said it would consider fining firms and making them compensate customers if they did not follow rules around the installation of pre-paid meters.

The action was prompted by an undercover investigation by The Times, which showed agents for supplier British Gas breaking into customers' homes, including vulnerable households.

Prepayment meters are pay-as-yo-go devices that require top-up payments to provide gas and electricity to a household.

If payments are not made, no power is supplied. Meter energy payments are more expensive than bill payments, something Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said would end in July.

Energy providers install the meters to customers who were in debt to avoid them amassing higher bills.

Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Today's figures give a clear and horrifying picture of just how widespread the forced installation of prepayment meters had become, with last year seeing an average of over 7,500 force-fitted a month."

Mr Shapps has not supported a blanket ban on prepayment meters.

"Prepayment meters are right for some people," he said.

"I do not want to ban them outright, but I do have concerns that companies have not been treating their customers fairly, over an already difficult winter during which the government has tried to help families by paying around half the energy bill of the average household."

The head of British Gas parent company, Centrica, apologised on Sky's Ian King Live show for his company's forced installation.