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Dec 8th, 2023

How we held Ofgem to account to protect the most vulnerable

By 38 Degrees team

Last winter, thousands of vulnerable people had their homes broken into by energy companies to install prepayment meters without their consent after falling behind from sky-high energy bills. This ultimately led to many disconnecting and being left in the cold and dark – including those with disabilities who needed energy to power essential aids, families with young children, and the elderly. Over 100,000 people jumped into action with 38 Degrees to get this practice banned – but this wasn’t the end of the story…

Ofgem, the energy regulator, had been caught asleep at the wheel during this scandal – and was soon proposing new rules that didn’t go far enough to protect people. Back in July, our supporters came together once again and sent 20,028 responses to Ofgem’s consultation on these new rules, demanding a ban on forced prepayment meter installation for ALL customers. More than 44,000 people also signed the petition calling on Ofgem to end this cruel practice.

We made a huge splash: Ofgem strengthened the levels of protection to cover a million more households, and dedicated a full five pages of its report to responses from 38 Degrees supporters: including direct quotes and sentiment analysis. Our action made such an impact that it was mentioned in The Times by the reporter who helped break the original scandal.

We didn’t stop there though. Next, we sent Freedom of Information requests to Ofgem and revealed that over £1 billion of debt was being held on prepayment meters – almost half of ALL energy debt. This means that those worst off could only watch as money put into the meter was ‘eaten up’ by debt, leaving them unable to power their homes even after topping up, and weighing families down with a burden which many will never be able to pay off.

These shocking new stats made a splash on primetime ITV Evening News, where a 38 Degrees supporter spoke about the struggles of living under the burden of this debt cycle.

And as we’ve moved into the winter, our energy campaigning has continued. Although we managed to achieve strengthened protection for over a million people and shine a light on the ongoing energy debt crisis, Ofgem still hasn’t developed a full ban on the forced installation of prepayment meters, and the energy crisis is still raging while energy giants make record-breaking profits. 

Approaching the end of 2023, the 38 Degrees community can look back on an incredible year of using people power to hold both energy giants and regulators to account. Together, we’ve made a real impact – but there’s still plenty more to do. 
Take action now and sign the petition demanding the Government supports people struggling to pay their energy bills by taxing energy giant profits!

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