Four million homes have prepayment meters for their gas or electricity. Four million households paying over the odds. Four million having to worry about emergency credit, debt repayments and getting to the shops before you can turn the heating on.
Behind the scenes
These pages are aimed at the public, but if you’re an adviser in a Citizens Advice office, you might need more.
Suppliers ought to respond when one of their customers says “You can’t install that meter – the cupboard is really high up and I’d never be able to reach it.”
Sadly, they don’t always. What it sometimes takes is a trained adviser telling them “You can’t install that meter – it would be in breach of condition 28.1A of the standard supply licence conditions, which state that it has to be ‘safe and reasonably practicable’.”
We wanted our new pages to help with this as well.
Detailed doesn’t have to mean complicated
We sat down with the energy regulator, Ofgem, to pick out the rules and laws that cover prepayment meters. Then we rewrote the legal jargon to say what it really means. Along the way we added summaries to help our advisers quickly find the right rules.
Next we needed to think about how to present these rules and summaries. We didn’t want to clog each page with hundreds of words of legal information. Nor did we want to interrupt the flow of the text. We settled on placing expandable boxes at the end of each page – almost like a digital version of footnotes.
The detail waits there, quiet and compact, until it’s needed.
There was one last question: why should this only be for our advisers? Well, partly because our research has told us – again and again – that complex terminology and unnecessary detail puts people off. Including too much can harm a page as much as including too little.
But we could still imagine situations where the background might come in handy. That’s why we’ve made our central list of rules visible to everyone. This way it’s available just in case it can help someone, but it won’t interrupt anyone’s journey to the answers they need.