UK energy provider Centrica has apologised for the “deeply disturbing” behaviour of a third-party contractor alleged to have damaged into weak clients’ properties to put in pre-pay power meters on its behalf, and suspended the controversial observe of pressured instalments.
Chief govt Chris O’Shea mentioned the proprietor of British Gasoline had instantly suspended work with Arvato after an undercover reporter from The Instances witnessed the contractor’s brokers breaking into the house of a single father of three younger kids to suit a pre-payment meter.
The investigation, which additionally unearthed different proof of pressured instalments within the properties of extremely weak clients, has shone an additional highlight on the controversial observe of becoming pre-pay meters underneath court docket warrants.
Residents Recommendation, the buyer charity, has referred to as for a right away ban on the pressured installations of such meters by all power corporations till new buyer protections are launched.
Most clients pay for his or her power after it has been used, generally by direct debit, however client teams have detected an increase in suppliers forcing households on to dearer pre-payment meters in the event that they fall into arrears.
Ofgem is investigating the observe, whereas enterprise secretary Grant Shapps warned suppliers final month that pressured instalments ought to solely be a “final resort”.
Shapps has summoned Centrica for a gathering with power minister Graham Stuart following the publication of The Instances’ investigation. Ofgem mentioned it was launching an pressing investigation into Centrica following the “extraordinarily critical” allegations and wouldn’t hesitate to take “agency enforcement motion” in opposition to the corporate.
Centrica mentioned it had suspended pressured set up till “no less than” the top of the winter.
Talking on Radio 4’s Right this moment programme on Thursday, O’Shea referred to as the practices unearthed by the investigation “fully unacceptable” and “deeply disturbing”, including that “there’s nothing that may be mentioned to excuse” the actions reported The Instances.
Centrica had commissioned an unbiased report so it may get to the “backside of what went fallacious”, O’Shea mentioned. The third-party contractor had “allow us to down”, O’Shea mentioned, however he conceded that he was in the end accountable.
“There’s nothing I can say that may categorical the horror I had after I noticed this,” O’Shea mentioned.
Gillian Cooper, head of power coverage at Residents Recommendation, mentioned it was “really stunning to see the extent of dangerous practices amongst some power suppliers”.
“Our frontline advisers know solely too nicely the determined conditions so many struggling clients have discovered themselves in,” she added. “Time and time once more we’ve referred to as for a ban on pressured pre-payment meter installations till new protections for patrons are introduced in.”
The investigation comes forward of Centrica’s full-year outcomes this month when it’s anticipated to report a near-eightfold rise in earnings. Its fuel manufacturing, power buying and selling and nuclear energy divisions have benefited from hovering commodity costs within the wake of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
Arvato Monetary Options mentioned it acted “compliantly always in accordance with the regulatory necessities within the areas through which we’re operationally energetic. In doing so, we respect and cling to the laws of Ofgem in addition to different regulatory our bodies.”
Nevertheless it added: “If there was any verbal or some other kind of misconduct by particular person workers, we deeply remorse it.”