British Gas boost for prepayment households

British Gas has dropped the minimum top-up for prepayment energy customers from £5 back to £1, following customer anger.

If you’re one of the UK’s 4.3 million prepayment customers, the news of the British Gas u-turn will be welcome news.

Just two months after announcing an increase in the minimum top up amount for its prepayment meter customers, British Gas has reversed the decision.

Between 1 July 2019 and 31 December 2019, at least 10% of people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with Uswitch saved £479 or more.

Back in December, the energy giant revealed it would be increasing the minimum prepayment top-up amount from £1 to £5 as of January 1, 2020.

The reason cited for the increase was the move from the PayPoint bill payment service to the Post Office-owned Payzone service.

The news didn’t go down well with customers - prepayment customers are often among the most vulnerable and most likely to suffer fuel poverty - and British Gas has said it has "listened closely to feedback" and will work with Payzone and Post Office to roll back its decision.

The minimum top up amount is set to move back to £1 from early March, but some customers should be able to top up by £1 earlier than this as the changes are implemented.

Sarwjit Sambhi, consumer chief executive at British Gas's parent company Centrica, said: "Our customers are always at the heart of the decisions we make and so we've listened closely to feedback after making this change. The aim of this move was to keep our costs down in order to offer our customers the best value, but I am happy to change this decision whilst we continue to look at ways that we can help our most vulnerable customers."

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, meaning you pay for your energy in advance.

 

Can you switch from a prepayment to a credit meter?

Prepayment meters are one of the most expensive ways to pay for energy so, if possible, it makes sense to switch to a credit meter and benefit from the range of cheap energy deals available.

To switch energy meters from prepayment to credit, you first need to get in touch with your energy supplier to make sure you are eligible for a credit meter.

To help your supplier work out whether you’ll be able to keep up with the monthly repayments on a credit meter, your supplier will run a credit check on you. If you have a poor credit score, maybe because you’ve had financial difficulties in the past or have never taken out credit before, you could find your application is rejected.

Your application may also be rejected if you’re using a prepayment meter to pay down debt to your energy supplier.

If you can’t switch to a credit meter for any reason, you should compare energy tariffs for prepayment tariffs to see if you can find a cheaper deal with another supplier.

If you pass the credit check, an engineer will be booked in to remove your old meter and install a new one, which could take anything between a few days and a few weeks. If you already have a smart meter at your property, you won't need to have a new meter installed.

You might be charged for the installation, depending on your supplier, but if you’re with one of the Big Six suppliers, you won't be charged any fee for switching from a prepayment to a credit meter.

If your current supplier does charge for the meter change, it may be worth switching to a supplier that doesn't charge and then get them to install your new meter. But make sure you do your sums before you switch - it’s likely you’ll have to be with your new supplier for at least a month or two before they switch your meter, so if you're paying more for your energy with your new supplier, it may work out cheaper to pay the installation fees instead.

Click here to run an energy price comparison, and see if you could be paying less for your gas and electricity.

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.