I’m Rory, an Energy Specialist and one of the prepay team at Bulb.
I wanted to share with you some of the successes and challenges we’ve had with prepayment meters over the last few months.
As you might know, Bulb has offered prepayment meters for a good few months now. And we’ll be supplying smart prepayment meters in 2019.
We think that smart prepayment meters will play a big part in helping our members manage their energy. Smart prepayment meters allow you to pay for exactly the energy you need, in real-time.
The challenges of prepayment meters
Prepayment meters bring a whole new set of challenges. The team has learnt how to deal with new behind-the-scenes operational tasks that credit meters do not require.
Some of those challenges arise because there are more external parties involved in supplying your energy:
- Payzone and Paypoint make it possible for you to top up at your local shop.
- Our Prepay Meter Infrastructure Providers (PPMIP’s),Siemens and Eon handle the transfer of funds and the delivery of keys and cards.
- The network service provider transfers information between Payzone, PayPoint and our PPMIP’s
What to do if you have a problem with your meters
Unfortunately, traditional prepayment meters aren’t perfect. There are some problems that can cause a meter to go off supply.
When we find out about these, we can act swiftly and get you back on supply. Just give us a call on 0300 30 30 635, from Monday to Friday (9:00am to 6:00pm) and we’ll sort it out.
We’ve taught the whole customer experience team to help our prepay members and have a dedicated team for those tricker queries.
When we’re not in the office you should call National Grid Metering on 0800 001 4340 if there’s a problem with your gas supply, or your local network operator if there’s a problem with your electricity. Calling 105 from anywhere in the country will automatically connect you to your local network operator.
If there’s a problem with your gas or electricity meter when we’re not in this office you should get in touch with your network operator. We’ve written a Help article explaining what to do if you have smell gas, have a power cut or your meters are not working.
Why do prepay meters go off-supply?
There are a few reasons why prepayment meters go off-supply:
1. Smart prepayment meters.
Suppliers that currently offer smart prepayment meters are offering first-generation smart meters (SMETS1). If you switch supplier with a SMETS1 meter, the outgoing supplier is obligated to send a message to the new supplier to make sure your meter goes into Credit or Direct Debit mode.
In some cases, the message cannot be successfully sent by the outgoing supplier. This is due to poor signal in the area. In these cases, we’ll need to do an emergency exchange for a regular credit meter as smart prepayment meters require an App rather than keys or cards to be topped up.
This is an industry-wide complaint. The energy regulator OFGEM is aware of the issue and we’ve also mentioned it to Citizens Advice.
Bulb, like many other suppliers, do not currently supply smart prepay meters. This is because we are waiting for the second generation meters (SMETS2) to be rolled out. SMETS2 meters allow prepayment members to switch smoothly and still enjoy the benefits of smart meters.
2. Key or card errors.
Keys and cards in traditional prepay meters can be faulty. There are a few reasons why your key or card will not work.
The first is technicalities in the kind of key or card we send out. If your meter has been exchanged and it’s not been recorded on the national database, your card will not work. This is because the key is programmed to work with a different meter
To solve this we issue a reset code so that your key works with the correct meter. The long-term solution is to automatically check serial numbers when there has been a recent meter exchange at your property. Again, the second generation of smart meters, SMETS2, allows us to fix this issue instantly.
The second reason a card might not work is due to hardware faults. As prepayment meters are technically more complex than credit meters, faults such as battery failures are more common.
If you have particular concerns or thoughts please post them below and I’ll make sure myself or someone else on the prepayment team gets back to you.