Households on prepayment meters facing £1bn debt ‘disaster’ | Personal Finance | Finance

Families using prepayment energy meters are buckling under £1billion of debt, a report states. New warrants to install the devices have been suspended but those with them typically take four and a half years to pay off electricity debt and four years for gas, says the campaign group Debt Justice.

Debt can force households to go without energy they need for heating, cooking or operating medical equipment. It can also speed up disconnection, the research found.

Firms forcibly installed 94,000 prepayment meters using warrants in 2022, with Scottish Power and British Gas ordering the most, according to official figures.

Junnie Braithwaite, 56, of North East London, owes her supplier £600. This is based on an estimate as she is unable to read her meter.

She suffers fibromyalgia and arthritis but cannot afford to run her essential stairlift. Junnie said she is being “pressured on to pre-pay”, adding: “I’ve been forced into unpayable debt and it left me feeling suicidal.”

Joe Cox, at Debt Justice, said: “We need to pause energy debt enforcement, write down the unpayable debt and reform the energy system to ensure everyone has the energy they need.”

Meanwhile, the Energy Bill, if it becomes law, would allow gas firms to switch people’s boilers to hydrogen without their consent.

Trials are planned for Whitby, Ellesmere Port, and Redcar.

Friends of the Earth said: “These communities shouldn’t have to be forced to have hydrogen boilers.

“It’s still going to be a high-carbon way of heating their homes.”

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