MoneySavingExpert calls on energy firms to let smart prepay customers use Government support on electricity AND gas
MoneySavingExpert (MSE) is urging some of the biggest energy firms to make it possible for prepay customers with smart meters to use their £400 Government Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) payments on both electricity AND gas, as it’s the gas meter that is crucial for many people's heating this winter.
The UK’s biggest consumer website believes it is unfair – and potentially unsafe – not to let smart prepay customers decide how to use the support payment.
MSE has written to energy providers that do not currently allow this for all – British Gas, OVO and SSE, Scottish Power, So Energy and Utility Warehouse – urging them to give ALL prepayment meter customers the flexibility to use their £66/month payment on both electricity AND gas on request. It has asked for this to happen ahead of the second EBSS payment on 1 November. It has also written to regulator Ofgem and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for their support.
So Energy and Utility Warehouse have since clarified that they will consider requests to switch credit to gas meters in certain circumstances.
Many prepay users are vulnerable, and already pay more for their energy than others. Paying upfront means they simply cannot use gas if they do not have the available cash to put money on their meters.
Prepay customers with traditional meters can decide where best to use the payments, which come in six monthly instalments between now and March 2023, as they’re sent as a voucher they can use to top up their electricity OR gas meter. But for those with smart meters, the payment is usually applied to their electricity meter by default – so they have less choice.
Gary Caffell, Head of Energy at MoneySavingExpert, said: "We appreciate that suppliers have acted fast to deliver the first of these crucial support payments. But combined with the wider cost of living crisis – affecting all other areas of people’s finances – not allowing customers flexibility to transfer some or all of these payments to gas meters puts these people, many of whom are vulnerable, at a much higher risk of reaching a crisis point in the coming months. Some may simply not be able to afford to heat their homes."
Exactly how consumers will get the discount depends on their supplier – see MSE’s firm-by-firm round up. While some are already allowing smart prepay customers to split their payments, others are not. MSE will keep pushing for ones that aren’t to sort this.
The Government's Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) launched earlier this month, and will see households in England, Scotland and Wales with a domestic electricity account get a non-repayable grant of £400 in instalments until March 2023. It will be paid as £66 October and November, then £67 from December to March.
For non-smart prepay users, see MSE’s How you'll receive the £400 energy bill discount from your supplier news story.
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