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Minimum Top Up for Many British Gas Pre-Payment Customers to Rise to £5

prepayment-meter

Most British Gas customers with pre-payment meters will see their minimum top ups rise from £1 to £5 on 1 January, as the supplier switches payment service.

Last month, the UK’s largest energy supplier announced it was ditching PayPoint terminals for a new agreement with Payzone. The change, to take effect 1 January, will reduce the total number of locations at which British Gas PAYG customers can top up their meters by 15,000, from 39,500 to 24,500.

As part of the switch, the minimum amount customers can top up will rise. PayPoint allows customers to add as little as £1 to their keys or cards at its 28,000 locations.

However, Payzone’s minimum top up is £5. That means customers struggling to afford energy won’t be able to add just a couple quid to their meters.

British Gas PAYG customers won’t be losing their ability to top up at 11,5000 Post Office locations, but the minimum top up at those counters has always been £5.

Customers with smart pay-as-you-go meters will still be able to add smaller amounts to their accounts, when they top up via phone, website or app. But most British Gas PAYG customers still have traditional meters.

Many of these customers were already concerned about the transfer to Payzone, which will force some to travel further to top up their meters. Higher minimum top ups could also increase the number of self-disconnections by British Gas PAYG customers.

Self-disconnections occur when pre-payment energy customers disconnect from their energy supplies either because they can’t afford to top up their meters or forget to.

In 2018 Ofgem found that one in 10 pre-payment customers—equating to 450,000 electricity and 350,000 gas customers— had temporarily self-disconnected.

Similarly, in 2017 consumer watchdog Citizens Advice found that 16% of pre-payment customers are running out of credit each year. That includes more than 140,000 households which self-disconnected because they couldn’t afford to top up their meters. Of those households, more than half (56%) coped with cold homes and a third (35%) made do without light.

In August, Ofgem proposed new rules for suppliers to limit the number of self-disconnections. Under the proposed regulations, suppliers would be required to quickly identify households which are self-disconnecting or self-rationing and extend them support, including credit and realistic repayment plans.

British Gas customers who want to retain the ability to add as little as £1 to their meters and to use familiar newsagents and corner shops, can switch to tariffs with competitors which still have arrangements with PayPoint. That includes EDF Energy, OVO Energy, nPower and SSE. Alternatively, they can move to a credit meter, if they have a decent credit rating and aren't in debt to their supplier. British Gas, along with most other suppliers, will install the credit meter for free.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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