Be Careful When Topping up Pre Payment Meters

Hello everyone,
Just advising you all to be aware that it appears Bulb (or someone) is playing silly beggars with Pre Payments.
I have had this issue more than once and have notified Bulb twice over this. Once in December 2021 and again last week (last time without reply)

There are absolutely no arrears on my Gas or Electric accounts (just to clarify) …

In December 2021, Our meter read 36p emergency left. I went to our local PayPoint and topped up £30. This was placed in the meter and it acknowledged there was £30 on the key, but when it put the money on the meter, the meter showed £15.04 plus the additional £5.00 emergency, thus making £20.04 total instead of the £30 that was added.

Bulb’s answer to this is that they had spoke to NPower ? who claimed that the missing money was due to “Meter Useage”. My question is so what is the standing charge for ?

Again, last week …

There was 76p left on the “Emergency” (which is pre paid also) in regards Electricity. I topped up £30, which again, was accepted value on the key. When the meter registered the amount, it showed £19.36 available, plus I assume, the extra top up of £4.24 for the emergency, making £23.60 out of the £30 added.

I topped up the gas also at the same time. Again, no arrears on the account.
The meter took 26p for standing charge and told me there was £4.74 for emergency use. When the key had registered the actual gas paid for, it came up as £14 with no emergency? So, where did the other £5 go ?

This is a strange situation, but something isn’t adding up.

My advice for all of you with pre payment meters is to watch what you top up and make sure it’s right.

I’ve been having the same issue with the emergency not showing when I top up

Hi Charmaine,
It appears that as we are both having the same issue, I can’t see that either of us have defective meters. I have to wonder just how much we are being robbed of over time. My examples alone says that to my experience at least in the 2 examples above, I am down by nearly £20.
This situation only seems to have arisen since Bulb went into receivership as far as I can guess (maybe I should have checked further back), but unless this situation gets rectified, I won’t be staying with Bulb, that’s for sure. We all have to work for our money and I don’t work to be ripped off and nor do you.

That’s about when I noticed it too. Once I top up again after letting it run out completely my emergency comes back for one use then it repeats if yours is doing the same

Hi @paul3 & @charmaine :wave:

Thanks for posting on our community and I’m sorry to hear about the issues you are having with your prepayment meters.

The way that legacy (non smart) prepayment meters take credit for emergency credit and debts when you top-up can be quite complicated and will vary depending on whether it’s electricity or gas, so I can appreciate that it might be hard to follow what happens to your credit.

To start with gas meters, you can always see exactly what the most recent top-up was used for by viewing some of the meter screens. If you pop in your gas card, until the screen shows the amount on the card, and then pull the card out and immediately press and hold the A button until you hear a beep, the meter screen should start to display some of the back-end meter displays. If you press A to cycle through until you reach screens 00, 01, 02 and 03, you’ll be able to see the last top-up and how much of that top-up was paid to emergency credit, debts etc. We have a guide on all the screens and how to get there if you needed.

With electricity, it’s slightly harder to track where the top-up has been sent after you add it to the meter. If you add a top-up to the meter and you don’t receive the full amount as credit, there are only 4 things that some of the payment could have gone towards: Emergency credit, unpaid standing charge, Friendly credit and debt (that a supplier has added to the meter). We have a help article that goes into a lot more detail on each of these, so that’s worth having a read of if you’re not sure about some/all of those.

For both types of legacy prepayment meter, as we can’t connect to them remotely, we wouldn’t be able to ask the meter to take more credit from your top-ups than the meter was designed to take. We set the tariff and debt repayment rate on the meters when we first take over your supply, but apart from that, the meter will operate in the exact same way that it would with any other supplier.

If you find that top-ups are consistently being reduced when adding them to the meters, feel free to drop us an email on with some pictures of the above-mentioned screens, and we can take a look for you and provide an explanation as to why the meter is reducing your top-ups.

-Luke :bulb:

Hello Luke,
I understand how pre payment meters work. I have had one for around 15 years off and on.

I have contacted regarding this issue twice on your email address shown and supplied pics to Bulb. First time in December and again last week as explained in my original post.

The “official reply” in December was that Eon had charged for “meter useage debt” ? … If this is the case, can you explain to me why I am being charged Standing Charge by 2 Companies (yourselves and Eon) ? I should add that my last questioning has gone without answer, almost like a wall of silence.

The bottom line is that in at least the last 2 examples alone, I am missing £16.36 without any logical or rational reason and can you also explain why this appears only to have happened since Bulb went into receivership ? This is the first time this has happened to my meter in years of using them.

Here is the reply from Bulb, which I found ludicrous …

"Hi Paul,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I did receive the photos you sent through but they weren’t giving much other than an indication of what might have happened, so I phoned up EON Prepay.

They’re the third party responsible for all things related to electricity prepayment, and they were able to tell me that as of the 17th of December, there was at least about £5 worth of debt built up on the electricity meter due to the meter going into emergency credit over time. "

My reply to this point is why are Eon (who are not my supplier) charging for “so called” debt (especially as there is no debt outstanding on my account) when the whole point of Pre Payment is that it is impossible to go into debt that is not reclaimed on next top up and also why because I have used emergency credit that I have already paid for up front ?

Well I guess my questions and points appear to be unanswerable, as is any understanding as to why Bulb are playing silly beggars with pre payment meters.
I have decided that after being ripped off through the meter for between 25-30% of any credit put onto Bulb’s keys or cards, with the way overboard increase coming into place as of April (not so much the cost per unit, but again they scam extra money by nearly 100% via Standing Charges for services that haven’t changed or cost more to provide) … I am done with Bulb !
You shall be hearing from my new energy supplier for switching very soon (if you haven’t already) … I feel Bulb will pretty soon fall foul of it’s “receivers” and their greed and kill Bulb off completely. Maybe Bulb should have just gone under with dignity instead of having rip off receivers dragging what is left hrough the mud to die slowly.

Hi @paul3

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

It appears there has been a misunderstanding here. EON are not charging you anything, we are your supplier so we are charging you based on your prepayment tariff. We use a third party who are able to access more historical data from your prepayment meter. This is the company we contacted and they advised us that you had gone into emergency credit.

Emergency credit is a buffer given by us to give you additional time to top up your meter and prevents you going off supply immediately after all your credit is used. You do not pay this in advance and this needs to be paid back completely before credit goes onto your meter.

For example, if you go into £2 of emergency credit, then top up £10, we will pay the emergency credit back first and then add £8 credit to your meters.

Please let me know if this doesn’t answer your query and I’ll be happy to go into further detail.

– Robyn :bulb:

Hello Robyn,
Just to clarify … it’s not a case of going beyond Emergency Credit as at the times referenced, Emergency Credit was not used up, if you check the original posts. As you say, when the meter is topped up, anything over the emergency credit is taken off any arrears … BUT … this is not the scenario here.
I have actioned a switch and I don’t feel that Customer retention can occur at this point.

Hey @paul3

Sorry for the confusion, it’s the emergency credit that is repaid before adding credit to your meters. If you go beyond emergency credit, your meter would go off supply.

If you go into emergency credit, and use all £5 emergency credit, you would go off supply. We would then need a top up of at least £6 which would then repay the emergency credit and leave you with £1 credit. Does that make more sense?

– Robyn :bulb:

It makes perfect sense, but as stated several times already, this is not the case.

I cannot believe how much my daughter is topping up her prepayment meter. She is a single mum and has topped up in a 2 bedroom flat £1200 since November. This has put her in fuel poverty as she cannot afford it. It is charging her even when she isn’t in emergency. Bulb have been absolutely useless, she has waited for a manager to call her 7 times in the last few weeks, no one has called. She has been offered a smart meter at the end of March !!! This must be wrong, how can she get help please to have this investigated.

Hi Sharn,
It appears that your Daughter is falling foul to the same issues as some with pre payment Bulb accounts.
My advice would be to cease trying to find out why this is happening. From my experience, you seem to get a generic, obvious answer, which seems to be that you don’t understand what happens when you top up.
I have started the switch and I would suggest if Bulb are not answering you, to do the same as myself and vote with your feet. It’s your right to choose suppliers and shop around.

Hi @SharnM :wave: Welcome to Community,

I am sorry to hear about the issues your daughter is having. I am unable to help from here as you are not the account holder and so I cannot access her account.

I would encourage her to give us a ring on 0300 303 0635 so we can discuss it with her over the phone.


– KT :bulb:

Hi @paul3,

I am sorry to hear you are switching away.

If you had fallen into the emergency credit then you also start building a daily standing charge debt on the meter as this is no longer being covered by your credit. This may be the extra credit lost from your top-ups that you are referring to.

Just like emergency credit, standing charge debt builds when you don’t top up. Once you add credit to the meter any standing charge debt is wiped with a portion of the top-up.


–KT :bulb:

Hi Katie,
You seriously have to be joking. I charge the meter up at least 3 times a week and I can’t see over £15 being acrued within 48 hours top up time, not to mention that Emergency hadn’t even been used up at time of topping up or placing keys and cards into meters.
Anyway, this is all semantics now. My switch is complete and I just hope that others follow my lead if Bulb carry on the way they are at present.
Maybe as a last thought, maybe you should advise your Customers how Standing Charge increases are part of any rise in costs per unit. What has changed ? … has the Ukranian crisis now affected meters that operate in exactly the way they always have with virtually zero maintenance ?, or is it just another excuse to up charges to profiteer for the receivers ?