The poor and elderly are going without heating after being pushed onto pre-payment meters, MPs said today.
They claim the Big Six energy firms are forcing people onto expensive meters as an alternative to disconnection.
But many customers are having to “self disconnect” because they cannot afford the rocketing gas and electricity bills, the Commons Energy and Climate Change committee has said.
The organisation Consumer Futures said that in 2011 the energy companies installed 384,835 in homes so it could recover unpaid bills.
But under the new tariff system consumers now have to pay annual standing charge of around £100 a year just to be stay connected even if they use very little gas.
Representatives from the Big Six firms – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.on, Scottish Power, SSE and Npower – told the committee they did not cut off residential customers over winter.
Instead they placed people on pre-payment meters.
Labour MP John Robertson, a member of the Energy and Climate Change select committee, said this often resulted in people being disconnected “by the back door”.
He told the Mirror: “When the Big Six were grilled in Parliament last month, they pledged not to pull the plug on vulnerable or elderly people struggling to pay their energy bills this winter.
“Since then we have heard that although energy suppliers are not disconnecting people directly, they do put hundreds of thousands of hard-up customers on pre-payment meters every year – so that they disconnect themselves.