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British Gas owner and Ofgem to be grilled over prepayment meter scandal

The Justice Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee have announced a joint inquiry into the forced installation of prepayment meters.

They will question Chris O’Shea, Chief Executive at Centrica, Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem and Bill Bullen, Founder and Chief Executive at Utilita.

This inquiry follows reports and undercover investigations by The Times and The i newspaper which raised concerns about vulnerable individuals being subjected to forced installations.

These individuals may have faced disconnection if they could not afford to make the prepayments.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee previously raised concerns about the installation of prepayment meters in a July 2022 report on energy pricing.

The report called for the energy regulator, Ofgem, to fully enforce its powers to clamp down on suppliers who break the rules and to support those at risk of self-disconnection.

During the hearing, a former magistrate will be asked about the role of the courts in granting warrants for forced installations.

Ofgem will also be probed on what it knew about the practice and how it dealt with its aftermath.

Sir Bob Neill, Chair of the Justice Committee, wrote to the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Justice in December 2022, expressing concerns about the process in magistrates courts which appears to allow energy companies, working with debt enforcement agencies, to be granted warrants without sufficient opportunity for individuals to contest the application, or for magistrates to assess whether a warrant is truly justified.

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