Prepayment Meters at Bulb

Hey all,

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.

Cheers,

Rory

@JustSsavvy thought you might be interested in Rory’s post. I’m sure he or the prepay team would be happy to answer your questions :slight_smile:

@“Eleanor at Bulb” thank you for prompting me to this post. @“Rory at Bulb” a very insightful post and addresses some of the common issues with prepayment customers.

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.

Do you have any plans to start offering weekend support?

As things are right now, if someone experiences a loss of power/gas due to a faulty prepayment meter on a Friday evening, as your next business hours aren’t until 09:00 on Monday, there’s technically no requirement for you to have it fixed until Monday at 13:00 (if I’m reading the regs correctly).

The National Grid/DNO isn’t going to replace a meter for you if it’s faulty - they’re just going to advise you to contact your supplier.

@mowcius we do have plans for our weekend support. You’re reading the regulations correctly, I’ll detail our plans going forward.

Currently, if someone losses gas outside our office hours they can call National Grid Metering on 0800 001 4340. National Grid will replace a faulty gas meter, or perform a wind-on, to get that person back on supply.

For electricity, a DNO won’t replace a faulty meter. That’s why we’re implementing an out-of-hours Siemens service in the next two weeks. A member will be redirected to this number when they phone us outside of office hours and over the weekend. Siemens are able to replace faulty meters and get people back on supply.

Currently, if someone losses gas outside our office hours they can call National Grid Metering on 0800 001 4340. National Grid will replace a faulty gas meter, or perform a wind-on, to get that person back on supply.
If they replace the meter, is it a temporary meter that Bulb will then replace again with another smart meter?

@mowcius they’re fully functioning meters, of the same meter function. So if someone had a credit meter it’ll be replaced with a credit meter, and the same for prepay.

Since Bulb doesn’t currently offer Smart meters, legacy meters are currently installed as the replacements. When we do start using SMETs 2 meters in 2019, these can be installed as the replacements.

@“Crinan at Bulb”, sorry I was meaning generally going forwards (as you don’t currently offer an out of hours service either).

For the electricity meters, as Siemens is going to be providing the out of hours service and also the general installs, I would presume that they would install the same model as Bulb have chosen to go ahead with.
For the gas meter I suppose it doesn’t matter quite so much so long as it works, as it’s not connecting to the IHD or Bulb’s future smart meter integration systems.

@mowcius we do have plans for our weekend support. You're reading the regulations correctly, I'll detail our plans going forward.

Currently, if someone losses gas outside our office hours they can call National Grid Metering on 0800 001 4340. National Grid will replace a faulty gas meter, or perform a wind-on, to get that person back on supply.

For electricity, a DNO won’t replace a faulty meter. That’s why we’re implementing an out-of-hours Siemens service in the next two weeks. A member will be redirected to this number when they phone us outside of office hours and over the weekend. Siemens are able to replace faulty meters and get people back on supply.

@Rosilyn

Not helpful, but that’s the current situation it seems.

What’s the latest with smart prepayment meters?

The Help article below says “If you have a smart top up (prepay) meter you can’t join Bulb just yet”:

However there now appears to be a Smart Pay As You Go sign-up page:

Is the Beta phase now over and Bulb are switching customers on smart prepayment meters?

Hi @norman7115

Our smart prepayment is now live :partying_face: However you will needs to have a SMETS2 meter that is currently commissioned onto the centralised DCC network.

Apologies, we’ve not updated our help page yet. I’ll make sure that gets updated now.

Thanks @Gabby_at_Bulb

Can you please confirm if the emergency credit is different for smart prepayment meters versus traditional prepayment meters?

According to the Smart Pay as You Go Help article, £10 emergency credit is available:

According to the Help article for traditional prepayment meters it’s £10 emergency credit for gas but only £5 for electricity:

Is emergency credit on an electricity smart prepayment meter £5 or £10?

Hi @norman7115, thanks for raising this question - the emergency credit for legacy electricity prepayment meters is £5, but is £10 for electricity Smart Pay As You Go meters.