British Gas reduces the minimum top-up for prepayment energy customers back to £1 after backlash
- British Gas initially changed the minimum top up limit to £5 from £1
- Customers complained about this and the change to Payzone terminals
- The change back to a £1 minimum top up is expected to be in place by March
British Gas have reversed the decision to change the minimum top-up amount for prepayment customers from £1 to £5 after customer backlash.
The Big Six supplier decided to change the limit at the same time it announced it was moving from Paypoint to Payzone terminals, leaving customers with 15,000 fewer locations to top up their supply.
Prepayment customers voiced their frustrations with many saying they weren’t made aware of the changes in advance whilst others complained that the change meant their nearest Payzone location was now miles away from them.
The decision to move the minimum top up limit to £5 was also criticised as many of those on prepayment meters are vulnerable customers who rely on being able to top up only a couple of pounds at a time.
British Gas has reversed the decision to change the minimum prepayment limit from £1 to £5
British Gas said it will now be working with Payzone and Post Office to ensure the minimum top up amount will move back to £1 for customers using any Payzone outlets or Post Offices to add credit to their prepayment meters.
The changes are expected to be implemented across all terminals by early March.
Britain’s biggest supplier said it moved the minimum top-up amount to £5 in January in response to increasing transaction costs.
It added that several suppliers such as Bulb and Ovo have a £5 minimum top-up and British Gas found that only a small number of their prepayment customer base was regularly topping up below £5.
Despite this, the customer backlash appears to have been so large, it decided to change the limit back.
Sarwjit Sambhi, chief executive at Centrica Consumer, said: ‘Our customers are always at the heart of the decisions we make and so we’ve listened closely to feedback after making this change.
‘The aim of this move was to keep our costs down in order to offer our customers the best value, but I am happy to change this decision whilst we continue to look at ways that we can help our most vulnerable customers.’
British Gas said it moved the minimum top up amount to £5 due to increasing transaction costs
Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, who started a petition to reverse the initial decision to change the minimum top-up, added: ‘This has revealed the extent of the fuel poverty crisis in Britain today, with far too many struggling to find even £5 to heat their homes.
‘I hope that other energy providers will now follow British Gas’s lead. There is much more that needs to be done to tackle the fuel poverty crisis and I will continue to campaign for those who are struggling and at risk of falling into hardship.’
However, even though the limit has changed, prepayment customers must still now top up in person at 11,500 local Post Offices or at 13,000 Payzone locations.
This compares to the 28,000 Paypoint locations that customers were previously able to use.
Despite this, the Post Office says that nationally 94 per cent of the population live within one mile of a Post Office or Payzone outlet and says Payzone is working with British Gas to fill in any gaps in areas where a Payzone outlet could operate.
Customers can also top-up online if they have or can get smart prepayment meters installed which let customers top up online, via a mobile app or over the phone.
Although British Gas haven’t revealed how many pre-payment customers they have, there are currently 4.3million pre-payment customers in total in the UK, according to Ofgem.
Customers with these meters are able to top up their energy as and when needed, without paying a monthly fee.
Many of these people are on a low income, are in debt to their energy supplier or need a short term service, meaning the changes are likely to affect the most vulnerable in society.
Households who still believe they are paying too much for their energy bills are encouraged to use price comparison services to see if they could save money by switching.
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