The UK’s big six energy companies have issued a warning about buying electricity meter top-ups on the doorstep.
Together with Consumer Focus, the consumer watchdog, they warned that an estimated 85,000 households have been affected by a doorstep scam which seems to offer cheaper electricity meter top-ups but just ends up with consumers paying twice.
It is a scam described by Christine McGourty, director of Energy UK (which represents all the big six), as “serious and widespread” and by Mike O’Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, as “despicable”.
With illegal sales of electricity top-up on the doorstep still a problem, energy companies are today launching a national campaign, ‘Top-up Safe’, urging electricity prepayment meter customers to buy top-up only through official channels.
The problem is affecting customers of all the leading energy companies (British Gas, EDF Energy, EON, npower, Scottish Power, and Scottish and Southern Energy). Suppliers have already begun writing to and telephoning their electricity prepayment meter customers to alert them.
Some customers are being offered £50 of electricity meter top-up for a cash payment of just £25. Energy companies can detect when they have not received payment for electricity used. The energy credit is illegal, so any customers buying top-up on the doorstep will end up paying twice, first to the criminal and then to their energy supplier.
Christine McGourty said: “This is a serious and widespread scam and we’re launching the Top-up Safe campaign to urge customers to steer clear of the criminals behind it. Just like when you buy something fake online – like a ticket for a football match or a music concert – you’re the one who’ll end up losing out in the end.”
Energy companies are working closely with the police at a local and national level to stamp out the scam.
A national industry communications campaign has been launched with a prominent warning message on the receipts issued when customers buy electricity top-up from official outlets – PayPoint, Payzone and the Post Office. Companies never sell electricity top-up door to door.
Mike O’Connor said: ”This despicable scam is putting cash in the pockets of criminals and defrauding thousands of people. Consumers must be on the alert for anyone who comes to their doorstep claiming to sell electricity credit.”
The Top-up Safe campaign includes posters and leaflets and a dedicated website.
Further information can be found at www.top-upsafe.com.
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