Energy firms issue staff with stab vests

AG7XCR Three Gas ring night light gassing blue

Stab vests have been issued to energy company staff investigating unpaid bills and forcibly installing prepaid meters.

After advice from risk assessors about the dangers from energy customers, British Gas has given the protective gear to around 180 workers. Meanwhile, EDF Energy has issued around 200 stab vests too.

"Electricity and gas theft is a serious crime which puts lives at risk and adds unnecessary costs to customers' bills" a spokesperson for British Gas told the Daily Telegraph.

"Because of the nature of the work our energy theft teams do, we've made protective clothing available to them."

Search for a cheaper energy deal

Npower, E.On, SSE and ScottishPower told the paper that they are reviewing the situation, but have not yet felt the need to follow suit.

The affected workers are those who investigate unpaid bills and energy theft - tampering with meters and the like. In such cases, energy companies often install pre-paid meters 'under warrant': against the householder's will.

"Energy theft is a serious and dangerous issue with significant impacts on local communities," says Tony Thornton, chairman of the UK Revenue Protection Association.

"Tampering with a gas or electricity meter can lead to fire, explosion, electrocution and death. The dangers of meter tampering are not confined to the individual – fire can spread, explosions can destroy neighbouring homes and attending emergency services are put at serious risk."

However, regulator Ofgem has expressed concern at the sharp rise in the number of forced installations of prepaid meters, which generally have higher tariffs than normal ones. More than 97,000 gas and electricity meters were installed under warrant last year, up from about 64,000 in 2009.

Search for a cheaper energy deal

"Installing prepayment meters under warrant should be used as a last resort by energy suppliers when consumers get into debt. It is a way to prevent a customer from being disconnected," says an Ofgem spokesperson.

"Suppliers can only install a prepayment meter where it is safe and reasonably practical for the consumer to use."

Fuel Poverty Action is campaigning against forced installations, saying they demonstrate just how much power energy companies have over people's lives.

"Customers on prepayment meters... pay more for power than those on direct debit, despite paying in advance and have to live in fear of the running out of money and being left in the cold and dark," it says in a statement.

"Households are in fuel bill debt because bills are too high, homes are too drafty and wages and benefits are too low. We could have clean and affordable energy without any home break-ins, but this means challenging the power of the Big Six — if Ofgem won't do this, plenty of cold and angry bill-payers will."
Martin Lewis Analyses Fall in E.ON Gas Prices

Read more on AOL Money:

Rise in dog attacks on postal staff

Man attacks restaurant worker in row over peas

Energy companies' profits rise tenfold in six years

10 PHOTOS
Where are Britain's highest tax bills?
See Gallery
Energy firms issue staff with stab vests
St Albans come in second on the list with a total income tax bill of £10,900 per person.
Windsor and Maidenhead came third with a total income tax bill of £10,200 per person.
The Surrey town of Guildford was fourth on the list with a total income tax bill of £9,830 per person.
England's capital city came fifth with a total income tax bill of £8,580 per person.
Wokingham has a total income tax bill of £7,490 per person. Putting it in sixth place.
Dacorum in Hertfordshire comes in joint sixth place with a total income tax bill of £7,490 per person.
The leafy towns of Reigate and Banstead have a total income tax bill of £7,000 per person.
Tonbridge and Malling take joint seventh spot with a total income tax bill of £7,000 per person.
Wycombe comes last in the top ten with a total income tax bill of £6,820 per person.

A small corner of leafy Surrey has taken the top spot in the league table of the highest income tax bills per person. Residents of Elmbridge pay an astonishing £1.18 billion in income tax every year. That puts a number of the major cities in the shade.
The leafy towns of Esher, Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames are filled with mansions, private estates, country clubs, golf courses, and riversides packed with millionaires. The proximity of Chelsea's training ground in Cobham has also brought well-paid sportsmen to the area.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS