Households overcharged by prepayment meter fault

A recent study into the UK energy industry has revealed a fault with over 1.5 million pre-payment gas meters, which has led to suppliers owing consumers for seven years’ worth of over-charges.

It was found that the problem occurred when the calorific value – used in pre-payment meters to determine the amount of gas that you need to be charged for – was not set properly. This meant that some pre-payment customers were grossly over charged.

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The issue has been addressed by Energy UK who assured consumers that energy suppliers were taking steps to rectify the problem and refund all of those affected.

Angela Knight, CEO of Energy UK apologised for the mistakes stating:

“The suppliers and the wider industry are all very sorry this problem has occurred but are already getting in contact with customers. Customers do not need to do anything - their supplier will get in touch but, if they are concerned, they just need to contact their energy company who will be able to help.”

Despite this apology industry experts are outraged that the mistake was able to go unnoticed for so long, especially because pre-payment tariffs are already by far the most expensive available to consumers.

Commenting on the situation, Citizens Advice CEO Gillian Guy said: “Prepayment meter customers are footing the bill for energy firms' errors. That overcharging has been going on for seven years shows the second-class service prepayment customers get.”

Gillian went on to call for more to be done to ensure that pre-payment customers receive a better standard of service in the future.

He said: “Energy companies need to make topping up their gas and electricity meters easier, including allowing people to top up over the internet or by phone.”

As it stands pre-payment meters can only be topped up in a local shop, so customers who have trouble leaving the house, must sometimes go without heat and light.

If you have inherited a pre-payment meter at your current property, you may be able to switch onto a new tariff. To find out how, check out our pre-payment meters page.

What is a prepayment energy tariff?

A sort of ‘pay-as-you-go’ energy tariff, you’ll need to have a prepayment meter installed and top it up using a special key, card, or cash.

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Les Roberts - Energy Expert at UKPower

Les Roberts - Energy Expert at UKPower

If you’ve got an issue with your energy supplier, our consumer champion Les is on hand to help. A decade in consumer affairs means Les understands how confusing energy tariffs can be, so he'll cut through the jargon to help make sure you get the best deal.