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Energy companies urged to give £400 discount to households who are missing out

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Grant Shapps said he would put "maximum pressure" on energy companies that haven't distributed prepayment meter vouchers. (Getty Images)

Energy companies who have not yet given households on prepayment meters their £400 energy bill discount vouchers will be put under "maximum pressure" to do so, the government has said.

Companies should have contacted prepayment meter customers before 1 October about the energy rebate announced by Rishi Sunak in May.

The discount is meant to help people with soaring energy bills but, earlier this month, the government admitted there was still a “blockage” in getting support to pre-payment meter households and vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to unblock the pipeline.

However, appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain (GMB) on Monday, business secretary Grant Shapps was challenged by its hosts over viewers who have still to receive support.

Host Ed Balls said one individual claimed he had repeatedly contacted energy firm British Gas since October but had not received the discount. British Gas reportedly told the customer the vouchers were with the department for work and pensions and that it's "nothing to do with them".

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“There is no excuse [for energy companies], because the government has provided the money to… providers,” Shapps responded.

“If there are still people who don’t have those vouchers through then it’s very, very important that those energy companies are providing it.

“I will undertake to meet with those energy providers again and be absolutely insistent since we are giving them the money, that that money is paid out.”

The government energy price guarantee at its current level expires in April 2023 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The government energy price guarantee at its current level expires in April 2023 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

Yahoo News UK has contacted the business department to try and establish up-to-date numbers for those yet to get the vouchers.

Prepayment meters work on a pay-as-you-go basis. If a household runs out of credit they are disconnected and left without heating or electricity.

Households can be forced onto the meters by energy providers via a court order if they fall behind on the energy bills, which normally impacts households on low incomes.

Earlier this month it emerged 42% of vouchers for customers with older prepayment meters have not been redeemed.

"These latest statistics are very worrying and while we hope that many households who have received these vouchers are still waiting to use them when the weather turns colder, it could be an early indication that those most in need could miss out on this vital support," campaign group National Energy Action (NEA) said.

The use of prepayment meters has started increasing again in recent months after years of consistently falling, with 60,000 new meters installed in the six months to March 2022.

Read more: What happens if you don’t pay your energy bills?

In his autumn statement on 17 November, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced more cost of living support for those on the lowest incomes. The measure included £900 for households on means-tested benefits and £150 for those on disability benefits.

Hunt also extended the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) price cap for 12 months at a higher rate, meaning the average household bill will increase to £3,000 from the current £2,500.