Mark Lazarowicz MP (pictured above) backs action on fuel poverty to help cut bills of pre-payment meter users
With steep rises in energy prices on the way this winter, Mark Lazarowicz MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, is backing a new Bill to make it easier for customers who use pre-payment meters (PPMs) for their gas and electricity to switch suppliers.
Currently, users can switch providing they are not more than £200 in debt – the Bill would raise that to £300 benefitting over 200,000 people. Mark said: “This Bill matters because pre-payment meter users pay more for their gas or electricity even though they are over twice as likely to be in fuel poverty than those who pay by direct debit. People often use PPMs because they are trying to budget responsibly – in some cases precisely because they were in debt – but debts for fuel bills can take a long time to pay off when someone can only afford to pay off a small amount each week. The Government is always urging consumers to switch – this Bill would make it easier for PPM users to do so and they are the people who could benefit most.”
The number of pre-payment users has risen steadily in recent years either as a conscious choice or because suppliers install a meter where someone is in debt to them. Last year over 15% of electricity customers in the UK used PPMs (4.1 million) and 13% of gas customers (2.9 million).
A recently published study by Consumer Focus found that one in six pre-payment users cut off their own energy supply in order to make ends meet – a measure of how carefully they are budgeting. Traditionally pre-payment users have paid much more for their gas and electricity than those who pay by direct debit or standard credit.
There have been improvements more recently due to action by the regulator, Ofgem, so that the prices PPM users pay better reflect the costs of installing and maintaining the meters, but further action is needed to ensure PPM users get a fair deal.