by Mathew Beech

Prepayment meter customers will soon be able to switch energy supplier even if their debt exceeds £200 as Ofgem is preparing to change the debt assignment ­protocol.

Utility Week understands that the energy regulator and major energy suppliers have agreed to increase the amount prepay customers can owe and still change supplier

to £500.

Ofgem is reviewing the debt assignment protocol and is expected to announce the outcome in the coming weeks. Three of the big six energy retailers have already confirmed to Utility Week that they support the change.

A spokesman for RWE Npower said: “Ofgem is looking to move the amount to £500 and we will support that move.” British Gas also backed the move as “the right thing to do”, while SSE said it would be happy to work within the new framework set by the regulator.

There are 1.5 million electricity and gas customers who are in debt, owing a total of £478 million to energy suppliers. Of these customers, 500,000 are currently above the existing debt limit of £200 and are therefore ineligible to switch, prohibiting them from saving up to £138 a year, according to Which?.

Alan Whitehead MP, who sits on the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said the move was “part of making sure it is level for all”. Energy UK said that allowing indebted customers to switch supplier was an “important” move.

This article first appeared in Utility Week’s print edition of 21st September 2012.

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