After trying to add credit to a prepayment meter, Bernadette Faulkner, 80 used a stepladder to access it, fell and tragically later died from her injuries.
There are no industry standards requiring electricity meters to be easily accessible by customers, except perhaps those in newly built properties, and in this case the meter was eight feet off the ground.
The report has been shared with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety and Energy UK, who have both said they will work with the industry to help prevent a repeat, and careful consideration of the findings will be undertaken.
Property agents need to be aware
If a meter cannot be easily accessed then customers should contact their supplier as soon as possible to get the support needed to make changes and/or discuss alternative options, which could include their meter being replaced or relocated.
The supplier is responsible for assessing the situation and deciding on appropriate action. It is illegal for people to move a meter tremselves.
Property agents can help by understanding how they can advise tenants and landlords.
- Ofgem has guidance for customers who have a meter or whose supplier wants to install one
- Citizen's Advice gives information about what to do if there are problems topping up a prepayment meter
- The Priority Services Register is a free support service that ensures extra help for people in vulnerable situations
- If a customer is unhappy with how their situation is handled by their supplier, they can raise a complaint with the Energy Ombudsman
Guidance from the energy regulator
Under a new code of practice introduced by Ofgem in autumn 2023, prepayment meters must only be installed where it is safe and the customer can easily use and access it.
The code also bans energy suppliers from forcibly installing prepayment meters for residents aged 75 and older and says suppliers must visit properties before installing prepayment meters. Vulnerable customers can ask for a meter to be relocated.
Ofgem stated they expect suppliers to carefully consider whether their customers’ meters are safe and appropriate for them to use, and to proactively identify if a customer may be vulnerable and in need of further support.