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Payout numbers for force-fit energy meters unacceptable, says energy secretary

The number of compensation payouts made to people wrongly put onto prepayment meters is “completely unacceptable”, the energy secretary has said.

Just 1,500 out of 150,000 people assessed have had financial redress from energy suppliers who forced-fitted the meters into their homes.

Claire Coutinho said she had spoken to the regulator to sort compensation payouts “as soon as possible”.

But energy suppliers only believe about 2,500 people require compensation.

Energy regulator Ofgem confirmed that about 150,000 cases had been “reviewed” so far by suppliers themselves, who have decided that just over 2,500 customers were entitled to payouts.

Some 1,502 customers have been paid initial compensation payments totalling £342,450 between them, with suppliers setting aside a further £200,000 for another 1,000.

Ofgem told all energy suppliers to review cases of people who were forced onto prepayment meters between the start of 2022 and the end of January 2023 to assess whether they required compensation.

However, the regulator told the BBC that British Gas, the supplier found to be hiring agents who forced their way into the homes of vulnerable people to fit prepayment meters, against Ofgem rules, was not included in the compensation figures released so far.

It said the supplier was not included in its review and was subject to a separate, ongoing investigation.

The exposure of the practice in which vulnerable people had their homes broken into for meters to be fitted led to a public outcry.

Asked on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg if the government was “abandoning” thousands of people due to the small number of compensation payouts to date, Ms Coutinho replied: “No, absolutely not.”

She said the situation was “completely unacceptable”, adding she had spoken to Ofgem, who are overseeing compensation, to “make sure that people can get the compensation as quickly as possible”.

“We’re getting new figures in the coming months but we are ready to act to make sure that people can get that money,” she added.