New emergency measures with the energy industry have been agreed by the government to protect the domestic energy supply of those most in need during the disruption caused by COVID-19.
Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied. This could include nominating a third party for credit top ups, having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top up card so that their supply is not interrupted.
More broadly, any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier, which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.
Customers that are unable to top up their pre-payment meter are advised to contact their supplier immediately to discuss how they can be kept on supply. Ofgem recommends consumers leave the meter box unlocked if they need someone else to top up the meter. Smart meter customers should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.
Further information about the Government’s announcement is here.
The smart meter rollout and the impact of COVID-19
Ofgem have issued guidance on minimum steps that suppliers should be taking now to protect customers. It is acknowledged that, in the interests of protecting customers and staff, and in light of changing circumstances, suppliers may make decisions to temporarily reduce their smart meter rollout activity. Suppliers are expected to keep any such reduction in activity under active review as circumstances continue to evolve.
Suppliers should ensure that all meter installers are following Government guidance on self-isolation. Ahead of all smart meter installation visits, suppliers should contact the household and establish i) whether there are any people in the household who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection (e.g. those aged over 70 or with underlying health conditions) and ii) whether the household is self-isolating in line with Government guidance. If yes, unless an emergency meter exchange is required to keep the customer on supply, Ofgem advise that the installation visit should not go ahead. Furthermore, some customers may prefer to postpone their smart meter installation. They have a right to do this and w suppliers are expected to capture the reasons why a customer wants to postpone, and establish plans for rescheduling.