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Prepay customers feeling the pinch as bills increase throughout lockdown - 29th January 2021

Almost 6 in 10 prepay customers are worried about their energy bills during national lockdown

Prepay customers who don't have a smart meter are worried about their energy bills as another national lockdown and a cold winter begin to set in, but getting a smart meter installer could really help end those worries.

Research commissioned by Smart Energy GB found almost two thirds (65%) of energy customers on a non-smart prepay meter claim that their energy spend has increased during national lockdowns caused by the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly this increase in energy bills is causing greater worry amongst those on non-smart prepay meters. Almost 6 in 10 (57%) said that since the latest national lockdown they were 'quite' or 'very worried' about their energy bills.

The sad fact is that for some families the choice between heating and eating is very real. But knowing what you are spending on energy in near-real time can be a huge help when it comes to budgeting. Smart meters come with an in-home display which does just that.

Smart meters are laying the foundations to help Britain save a significant amount of money through making our energy system more efficient. Getting one could also mean you're entitled to some of the cheapest energy tariffs available, helping you to save money and better manage your home's energy use.

Non-smart prepay meters can only be topped up by people going to their local post office or newsagents to add money to their meter, and one third of those surveyed (34%) said leaving the house to top up was the most irritating thing about having a non-smart prepay meter.

This is where prepay smart meters can help rid the worry and irritation for prepay customers. It is now easier for customers to top up: via their mobile, online or at the shop and with a prepay smart meter, you can also clearly see when you're close to using your emergency credit. This can help households, especially those with low incomes to make the most of their energy use and can make budgeting easier. This function also means one less trip to the local shop during the height of the pandemic.

Fflur Lawton, Head of Public Affairs at Smart Energy GB, said:

"Increased energy bills can be a worry for anyone, but we know there is extra pressure on people with prepayment meters, who tend to be living in more vulnerable circumstances.

"Both prepay and credit smart meters offer the opportunity for people to take control of their energy use and start to understand the changes they could make in order to help them save energy and money at a time when more and more people are living with financial worries and difficulties."

The emergency credit function, which kicks in once your credit runs out is a function that respondents use all too often with half (50%) of those surveyed using this option once a month or more frequently. In fact, almost 2 in 10 (18%) said they use the function once a week or more.

Interestingly further gripes from non-smart prepay customers include things such as running out of energy at a bad time (30%), losing the meter key (10%), and emergency credit being more expensive (10%).


Notes to editors

Savanta ComRes interviewed online, between 13 and 20 January 2021, 1,014 UK adults aged 18+ who use prepayment meters. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British PollingCouncil and abides by its rules.

  • 14% of the GB population are on prepay
  • Just over a third of the prepay audience (35%) are also on a low income

Populus commissioned by Smart Energy GB, (March 2020), Smart Energy Outlook

About smart meters and the rollout

Britain is committed to a cleaner future - one with zero carbon, zero emissions and reduced pollution.

To make this happen, our nation requires a major upgrade to its energy infrastructure, specifically, it requires the creation of a smart energy system. Smart meters, which replace traditional, analogue meters, are the foundation of a more reliable, clean and affordable energy infrastructure, allowing Great Britain to better manage energy use, transition to mass uptake of electric vehicles and to build a greener economy.

There are already over 22 million smart meters installed in homes and microbusinesses across Great Britain. Every household in England, Scotland and Wales can now see their energy use in near-real time, receive accurate bills and do their bit for the planet, by requesting a smart meter, at no extra cost, from their energy supplier.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the campaign for a smarter Britain. It's our task to help everyone in Great Britain understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to be cleaner and greener with their energy use. Our national campaign is reaching households and microbusinesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit our website

Smart Energy GB media contacts

For more information including interview requests, case studies of smart meter users, infographics, photography and video content please contact the smart Energy GB media team:

Max Budgen: [email protected]; 0203 019 1045 / 07715 679 555