Thousands 'without power for weeks'

Energy companies are letting customers be disconnected by the "back door" leaving ten of thousands of vulnerable residents without gas and electricity for up to three months, Labour claimed today.

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Pre-payment customers are 'self-disconnecting' because they cannot afford to top up, shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint says

Energy companies are letting customers be disconnected by the "back door" leaving ten of thousands of vulnerable residents without gas and electricity for up to three months, Labour claimed today.

Pre-payments customers who cannot afford to top up are effectively "self disconnecting" but some companies wait up to 90 days before they investigate, leaving households without heating or light, Caroline Flint warned.

The Shadow Energy Secretary criticised companies for failing to step in sooner and warned that thousands of homes are facing the winter months without warmth.

Labour's research found Npower and EDF both wait 90 days before contacting households that have failed to top up their meters. It says Npower recorded 23,151 occupied households that went more than 30 days without meter payments in 2012 while EDF reported 222,192 electricity customers and 143,108 gas customers that hit the one month mark, although its figures do not exclude vacant properties.

British Gas and SSE wait 28 days while Scottish Power and E.On contact customers after 35 days, Labour said.

Ms Flint said: "David Cameron has failed to stand up to the energy companies and these figures show that tens of thousands of vulnerable customers hit by his cost of living crisis could be going without heating in the coldest months of the year.

"It's more obvious than ever that the energy market doesn't work for ordinary families. We need a Labour government to reform the market, replace Ofgem with a new regulator with real teeth, and implement Labour's price freeze, which would save money for 27 million households."