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Anti-poverty campaigners call on government to ban forced prepayment meter instillations

FUEL poverty campaigners staged “warm up” demonstrations across Britain at the weekend, calling on the government to ban the forced instillation of prepayment meters.

The government has come under increasing pressure to outlaw the imposition of these meters since an investigation by the i newspaper revealed that energy companies have secured half a million court warrants to enter people’s homes and install them since July 2021.

Citizens Advice also reported that 3.2 million people were disconnected in 2022 over their inability to top up the meters, more than in the previous 10 years combined.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps promised today to “name and shame” energy suppliers that force such meters on their customers, revealing that he has written to companies to demand that they voluntarily end the practice.

On Saturday, protesters in Edinburgh entered the Scottish Parliament building to demand that the government joins Labour and others in pressing Westminster to ban forced switching to prepayment meters.

Campaigners staged a “warm-up” at the Museum of Liverpool with blankets, sleeping bags and hot water bottles, while protesters in Exeter occupied a call centre of energy giant EDF.

In London, action took place at the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street and a Barclays Bank branch in Croydon in protest at the company’s continued funding of exploration for fresh oil and gas reserves.

The protests were a part of Fuel Poverty Action’s Energy For All campaign.

Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which includes Fuel Poverty Action, welcomed Mr Grant’s “cease and desist order” but said it fell short of the full ban needed to protect the most vulnerable.

He added: “We also need to ensure that this voluntary approach covers the millions of people on smart meters, who must never be switched onto pre-payment mode without their active, informed consent.

“We need a full investigation to get to the bottom of the scandal quickly and ensure that if mistakes have been made, that those responsible are held to account and those that suffered are compensated.”

Fuel Poverty Action co-founder Ruth London said: “Energy suppliers were quick to find men to drill out locks and break into homes to install these meters — now they must act quickly to take them out. 

“People are being left in the cold and dark even when they are dependent on heat or on power for disability aids, medical equipment, for light and for charging phones. 

“Every delay will lead to deaths.”

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