“This is hopefully just the beginning of energy suppliers stepping up to do the decent thing now we have shone the light on how serious a problem this is. It makes me happier knowing OVO has announced this, but it is not time to celebrate. Far more needs to be done at every level of decision-making in the UK right now to protect the most financially vulnerable and squeezed households. Hopefully, other suppliers will be forced to follow OVO and do the right thing. If they don’t, it’s going to prove we were right to label suppliers callous, and the impact of any decision not to follow OVO’s lead will be painfully clear for their customers, the regulator, and all those looking to hold energy suppliers to account during this winter crisis.”

Heather Rose from DebtBuffer.

As a result of DebtBuffer lifting the lid on the rip-off charges being applied to over 300,000 prepayment meter customers, and the media coverage that followed, the UK’s third largest energy provider OVO Energy, which has 4.5 million customers, and for its prepayment customers operates under its BOOST POWER brand, has today announced that has put £50million into a customer support package, for those that are struggling to pay their bills. The support package will be available from October 1st 2022, with the firm stating that it will be “targeted to help customers with a real and immediate need”.

What exactly have OVO announced for Prepayment customers?

As per the OVO website:

We’re working to increase our emergency credit from £5 to £15. We’re also making sure that if we switch our customers to prepayment plans, we regularly check in to make sure they’re able to manage through this difficult period.

We’ll be offering payment holidays for debt repayment for all prepayment meter customers so that every penny put on the meter will go towards heating, not paying back debt this winter.

Ovo Customer Support Package

Why is this so significant?

Last week, through its ongoing campaign for consumer rights and fairness for people in debt, DebtBuffer released its findings that ~300,000 households on prepayment gas, and electricity meters have them set to recover debts.

DebtBuffer also uncovered that at top-up, most of the major energy suppliers will take 100% of any debts built up from electricity meter customers, and up to 90% from gas customers.

At the time, Heather Rose from DebtBuffer said “This analysis shows how incredibly harsh prepayment meters can be for customers who end up falling into arrears on any agreed weekly payments for debts, or, get into additional debt by having to make regular use of emergency credit. To automatically deduct 100% of any electricity arrears and up to 90% of any gas arrears, before any credit can be used to heat or power households is simply not good enough, in fact, it borders on callous. According to Ofgem data, the average repayment term for PPM customers, with meters set to recover debt, is 247 weeks. Ofgem needs to take firm action to prevent these impacted households being in a permanent debt spiral because of these high claw backs, and being totally unable to afford energy.”

What about other energy suppliers?

We shall wait and see what happens…

Who will be next to step up and do the right thing? Time will tell.

DebtBuffer will continue to campaign for the fair treatment of people who suffer from problem debt.