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In the UK, the prepaid gas and electricity meter scam

In the UK, the prepaid gas and electricity meter scam

On December 7, 2022, when she returned to her home in Wimbledon, southwest London, with her 90-year-old mother, Cecilia Klimczek initially believed it was a burglary. The contents of a cupboard were dumped on the floor, and it was clear that someone had entered the apartment during his hours of absence. After an initial panic, she found a letter of explanation left by her gas and electricity supplier, Ovo Energy. He had forcibly installed the prepaid gas meter.

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Now, like 3.2 million British households, Mme Klimcsek puts credits on a card and has to insert it into the meter to activate. Every time the credits run out, the gas supply will automatically stop. The same system exists for electricity and concerns 4.2 million households. “I was in a complete frenzy, Today I remember Mme Klimsek, 39 years old. I was only out for a few hours and Ovo Energy had my phone number to let me know why they didn’t call me? »

A few months ago, a bedbug infestation that her landlord refused to take care of forced her to pay a company £1,200 (€1,350) for a full clean. For this mother of a 5-year-old daughter, who also supports her elderly mother, such an amount was a huge blow. She is unemployed and has recently pursued studies and her husband is a chef.

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Generally, their income is enough to cover running costs (including rent of £1,400), and he has £372 in arrears with his energy supplier. “I called them in October [2022] To warn them, I had announced the payment on December 9 [2022]. » The company did not want to know anything and followed the usual procedure: faced with an unpaid debt, after a few reminders, it asked a magistrate for authorization to install a prepaid meter, obtaining the right to enter the accommodation if necessary.

This system is not new to the UK, but it became widespread in the winter of 2022-2023. Although the state covers half of energy costs, Britons’ electricity and gas bills have doubled from £1,200 a year, on average, in October 2021 to £2,500 today. Inevitably, the fee was charged, and prepaid meters were installed in 600,000 homes by 2022, a 57% increase from 2021.

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