New guide to help people avoid unfair prices on energy

Guide to Using Prepayment MetersToday (27 February), we’re delighted to launch a new resource which will help people with prepayment meters to avoid paying unfairly high prices for their energy.

Prepayment meters (PPMs) charge higher tariffs for gas and electricity than credit meters, meaning that people on low incomes end up paying a ‘Poverty Premium’ for their energy. PPMs also cause a number of other problems: they make it difficult for people to manage any debts; it is very difficult and expensive to get one removed; and they can even charge people for debts incurred by previous tenants of a property. (See our report Let Us Switch! for more information about the problems with PPMs.)

The Guide to Using Prepayment Meters for Gas and Electricity is designed to help people avoid these pitfalls and reduce their energy costs. It includes advice on what to do when you move into a property with a PPM (especially how to avoid paying a previous tenant’s debts), information about switching to more affordable tariffs, and contact details for a range of energy suppliers and advice services.

We’re very pleased that the Guide is now being distributed by Salford City Council. If you have a PPM yourself or you help people in fuel poverty, you might find the Guide useful too. You can click here to download the Guide, or request printed copies by contacting Joyce Kay on 0161 236 9321 or joyce@church-poverty.org.uk

The Guide was written by a group who took part in a School of Participation delivered last year by Church Action on Poverty and The Broughton Trust. The School of Participation included members who had personal experience of fuel poverty, and was certificated by Manchester Metropolitan University.

School of Participation

Eight local people were recruited and attended a total of 17 sessions. They decided to concentrate on problems being experienced by people who use PPMs because this was thought to be an important issue in Salford, and some group members were PPM users. One group member had been overcharged £400 through paying a previous tenant’s debt. At the same time, Church Action on Poverty’s research report on the topic called Let Us Switch! had confirmed that this issue was of national importance.

The group examined issues around PPMs, completed research and analysis, and then looked at what action they could take to help people affected. They decided that an information booklet would be useful, especially for people using PPMs for the first time.

The group was helped enormously by Conor Coulter, a Church Action on Poverty volunteer who worked on the booklet through the summer. The group are also grateful to Salford City Council for their help and support.

Joyce Kay, Community Link Worker, Church Action on Poverty

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