Energy firms have been given a Tuesday (February 7) deadline by the Government to decide on what action to take for customers who have had a prepayment meter wrongfully installed.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps has accused Ofgem of “having the wool pulled over their eyes” by taking at face value what the energy company bosses were telling them and not listening to customers.

It follows an investigation by The Times which revealed how vulnerable customers – including disabled and mentally ill people – were being forced by British Gas on to the pay-as-you-go meters, or have their gas switched off.

An undercover reporter for the newspaper worked for debt-collecting contractor Arvato Financial Solutions and accompanied agents who used court warrants to gain entry into customers’ homes to force-fit the meters.

Basingstoke Gazette: Vulnerable people were being forced by British Gas onto prepayment metersVulnerable people were being forced by British Gas onto prepayment meters (Image: Newsquest)

Action that energy firms could take could include giving out compensation.

What did Mr Shapps have to say on the matter?

In a statement, Mr Shapps said: “I am appalled that vulnerable customers struggling with their energy bills have had their homes invaded and prepayment meters installed when there is a clear duty on suppliers to provide them with support.

“They need to refocus their efforts on their consumers, the British public, who are at the receiving end of this abhorrent behaviour.

“I’m also concerned the regulator is too easily having the wool pulled over their eyes by taking at face value what energy companies are telling them.

“They need to also listen to customers to make sure this treatment of vulnerable consumers doesn’t happen again.”

In response, Ofgem said it shared Mr Shapps’ “shock” at the findings of The Times investigation and that it had ordered British Gas to cease all warrant activities until it can demonstrate compliance with its standards and requirements.

Customers being moved onto a prepayment meter is meant to be a last resort and vulnerable people are not supposed to be forcibly moved onto one.