Our approach to prepayment
A few customers have asked me recently about prepayment; how we look after prepay customers, and if prepayment meters are ever used in cases where a customer is in serious debt.
Many customers prefer prepayment meters and knowing exactly what they are 'putting on' the meter at any one time. We’ve worked hard to make prepayment a great option for them: we don't charge for installing a prepayment meter (most suppliers charge up to £150), and the rates a prepayment customer pays are no more expensive than the rates customers pay on our standard Flexible tariff (unusual in the energy industry, where if you have a prepayment meter you will often pay more for your energy).
And when it comes to people who can’t keep on top of energy bills, we believe there are usually more effective, better ways to help than installing a prepayment meter.
Greg Jackson, Founder and CEO
Our message to customers struggling to pay has always been: as long as you’re talking to us, we can work with you – connecting you to extra support and finding other ways to help.
If we see a customer beginning to build up serious debt, missing regular payments and not responding to our normal emails, we’ll start trying to reach out to talk about how we can help. We try hard - there are typically over 20 attempts to contact you before we get to the stage of installing prepay meters - we’ll get to that later.
There's a lot we can do, including:
- Personalised account help. Our team is always on hand to give individualised help to suit our customers’ needs (things like returning any built up credit, giving payment holidays, making sure you are on the cheapest tariff or offering a smart meter upgrade so you can stay in control and benefit from schemes like Saving Sessions).
- Support from our Octo Assist fund. Our dedicated fund has £15 million earmarked to give direct bill support to those struggling to pay. It’s helped 60,000+ people so far.
- Connect you to existing support schemes from the government and other organisations. These schemes include energy efficiency measures to help reduce your bills while still keeping you cosy, or even direct financial support such as the Warm Home Discount and specific government support in the energy crisis.
- Give tailored in-home energy saving advice to help customers make simple adjustments to save money on their energy bills (e.g. lowering the flow temperature of a gas boiler can save the typical home around £112 without feeling any difference in warmth). We’re even sending trained Energy Helpers around 500,000 homes to give this advice in person this Winter.
- Free electric blankets to the most vulnerable customers, particularly people with serious medical need, as it’s much cheaper to heat a human than a home – our analysis shows a typical home can save around £300 a year. We’ve sent out around 40,000 this year already.
We don't install traditional 'dumb' prepayment meters (where you can only pay by top up) and in fact are actively trying to take these out and switch them for smart prepay meters to provide a better experience for our prepay customers.
We do think that people should talk to us if they're struggling to pay their bills, and that it's not fair if some customers have to cover the cost of others who don't pay. But we think there are much better ways of looking after customers who aren't paying than fitting a prepayment meter.
In fact, we’ve involuntarily switched fewer than 100 customers to a smart prepayment meter in the history of our business. That’s 0.00006% of our total customer base. That’s less overall than some suppliers do in a single day. And where we ever do, we charge them a special low rate to help them get on back of their bills.
Before we ever get close to going down the route of involuntary prepayment, we go through an extensive plan to try and reach the customer. Over 6 months of calls, emails, texts, letters and even visits in person. If we discover at any point that they have a medical dependency or other factor that means a prepay meter is not suitable, the entire process is suspended and we’ll aim to offer other support instead.
Our Director of Regulations, Rachel Fletcher, explains more here:
We don’t charge smart prepayment customers more
Under Ofgem’s price cap, energy suppliers are allowed to charge £59 a year more on prepayment tariffs. We do the opposite. In those very rare scenarios where we may switch a customer to smart prepayment function, they receive a special rate below the price cap. Currently, it’s our cheapest standard tariff and these customers get additional care with monitoring of off-supply periods and welfare checks. We’ve also not charged for installation of the prepay meter (while most other suppliers charge £150).
Customers on smart prepayment with Octopus also have access to our generous friendly credit hours. This will mean should your credit run out you'll automatically roll onto friendly credit to keep you on supply until 10am the next working day. We’re available via email and social media until 10pm every day of the week, and we've got emergency support evenings and weekends including the ability to leave a message and book a callback with our emergency team.
Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!×Close window