Gordon Brown has called on the energy regulator’s chief to resign over the scandal of the forced installation of prepayment meters.
Mr Brown said the chief executive of energy regulator Ofgem, Jonathan Brearley, should resign for “failure” to protect “impoverished customers” from intrusions by utilities and their collection agencies.
Magistrates in England and Wales were told on Monday to stop applications for energy companies to enter homes because the courts feared injunctions being issued without examining whether customers were vulnerable or not.
Writing for the Independent, the former Labor prime minister said: “In this day and age of reshuffles, the Ofgem regulator should reconsider its position for failing to meet its responsibilities to energy customers, subject to the forced installation of prepayment meters.”
Mr Brown added: “He and the now restructured energy department must immediately explain why, rather than side with the public, they have failed miserably to properly monitor and expose utilities and their debt brokers, who are in the midst of in the worst cost-of-living crisis in fifty years, have broken into the homes of impoverished customers.”
The intervention comes after a report in the Times newspaper that British Gas subcontractors broke into the homes of customers, some of whom were disabled, to install the meters.
Mr Brown also took aim at the government, saying the Department of Work and Pensions should scrap “punitive measures” such as the bedroom tax and benefit cap.
“Ministers are leaving families unable to meet the cost of their weekly food bill, without resorting to borrowing wherever they can find money,” he said.
“The welfare state safety net is now full of holes – and instead of being the last line of defense for those in need, our own Social Security Department is forcing families into increasingly desperate measures.”
According to Citizens Advice, some 600,000 people were forced onto a prepayment meter by 2022 because they couldn’t pay their energy bills.
An Ofgem spokesperson said: “The allegations against British Gas are shocking. Ofgem is focused on protecting vulnerable customers, so we acted swiftly by asking all suppliers to suspend forced prepayment meter installations while we investigate the issues more thoroughly.
“We have also launched a formal investigation into British Gas and have forcibly banned them from installing any more PPMs until the British Gas board can assure us they can protect vulnerable customers.”