About Pay As You Go meters

The information here sets out some important information about prepayment meters, their main benefits and points for you to think about, and where you can get help with your prepayment meter if you need it.

We install Prepayment Smart Meters for our customers, which offer many more benefits than older ‘non-smart’ prepayment meters. When talking about the advantages and disadvantages of prepayment meters, it is important to be aware when they apply to both, or only one, of the prepayment meter types. We have explained the meter types here, followed by information you might want to know about them.

The advantages

  • Prepayment can offer a more manageable way to pay for your energy without the worry of receiving unaffordable bills.
  • Prepayment means you are paying for your energy before it is used, so you are more aware of your energy spend and can avoid building up debt.
  • Prepayment meters allow you to see your remaining balance, which can give you a better idea about how much your energy is costing as you use it - this can help you to save energy and money.
  • Prepayment meters will have an ‘Emergency Credit’ facility which offers a set amount of extra credit in case you run out of your pre-paid credit, giving you time to top-up your meter before you would lose supply.
  • Some types of prepayment meter will have a ‘Friendly Credit’ or ‘no-disconnect’ mode that operates at certain hours of the day and/or night. In these hours, considered to be the most inconvenient times to be without energy, you will not lose supply even if Emergency Credit has not been activated or it has run out.
  • Our prepayment smart meters allow you to access even more usage information via your ‘in-home display’ and/or the meters directly. As well as your real-time balance, you can also view your current usage, usage history and an estimate of how long your credit will last based on your current rate of usage. Having access to this information gives you greater control and visiblility over your energy spend, enabling you to make savings.
  • Both our gas and electricity smart meters offer £10 ‘Emergency Credit’ - the highest amount offered by suppliers today. There is no charge to use our ‘Emergency Credit’ feature.
  • Both our gas and electricity smart meters also operate ‘Friendly Credit’, everyday from 3pm* to 10am* the next working day, keeping you on supply during evenings, weekends and bank holidays. There is no charge to use the ‘Friendly Credit’ feature.
  • As the first supplier solely focused on the needs of prepayment customers, we don’t charge a higher tariff to pay by prepayment smart meter. Our most competitive tariffs are set up to benefit our prepayment customers - our ‘Smart Energy’ prepayment tariff is our best tariff.
  • There are several easy and convenient ways to top-up your prepayment smart meters. You can put credit on your meters by topping-up at PayPoint outlets, by using debit or credit card details over the phone on our ‘Automated Top-Up Line’, online via our website or app and by SMS (text message). This allows you to top-up from anywhere, at any time of day.
  • In the event you mislay your top-up cards or just want to have extras, you can also generate a FREE, digital version which can be scanned at any PayPoint outlet and is unique to your meter- we call these top-up ‘e-cards’ and they can be generated at www.utilita.co.uk/e-cards
  • Whichever payment method you choose, the top-up is sent to your prepayment smart meters automatically, so there is no need to physically insert a top-up key or card, saving you trips to the meter. In the event the top-up does not credit your smart meter, it is possible to manually enter a top-up by typing in the ‘Top-up Code’ from your receipt into your in-home-display or meters directly.
  • When we install your prepayment smart metering equipment, we also provide you with a handheld device, widely referred to as a ‘Smart In-Home-Display’. The in-home display is plugged into a household mains socket and remains in constant communication with the electricity and/or gas smart meters - this enables the in-home display to show up-to-date energy balances, energy usage and account information. Our prepayment smart meters allow you to monitor your energy usage more conveniently, without the need for regular trips to the meters directly, which may be positioned out of easy reach. However, you should always be able to access your meters, as there may be times you will need to get to them.
  • The installation of our smart meters is free of charge and takes approximately 1 hour to complete (less for an electricity-only property).
  • Our Customer Care Team have the experience and knowledge required to support you with any prepayment smart meter query you may have. We also have a team of advisors dedicated to answering questions on energy usage; offering specific energy efficiency advice to support you further.

*This may be subject to change. For example, for Daylight Saving Time (when the clocks change)

  • Typically, electricity key and gas card meters will offer between £5 and £7 ‘Emergency Credit’ per meter.
  • Some electricity key meters will offer a ‘Friendly Credit’ feature, typically from 8:00pm to 8:00am the next day, including Sundays. Gas card meters do not typically offer a ‘Friendly Credit’ feature.

The disadvantages

  • Prepayment tariffs are typically higher, compared with competitive standard billing tariffs.
  • To have a constant energy supply with a prepayment meter, you will need to buy enough credit to cover your energy usage. You may need to top-up your meters regularly which can mean frequent visits to your local PayPoint outlet.
  • If your prepayment meter has run out of credit and your supply is off, to restore your supply you will need to access your meters directly which may be positioned out of easy reach.
  • Your supply will turn off if your prepayment meter runs out of credit outside of ‘Friendly Credit’ hours, and your ‘Emergency Credit’ has been used or has not been activated. It may not be possible to restore your supply until your meter is topped-up again and is in positive credit.
  • If your prepayment meter has run out of credit and your supply is off, you may need to repay any ‘Emergency Credit’, ‘Friendly Credit’ or any outstanding amount owed, before your supply will come back on. You may also need to account for any debt repayment plan that has been agreed. This could mean you need to top-up a bit more than you usually would so please be aware this may effect your budgeting.
  • A prepayment meter is limited to accepting the unique top-up key or card (or top-up card number) that has been provided to you for each meter. Using other customers’ keys or cards, or your old cards, could result in a meter fault, your payments not being allocated correctly, or incorrect prices being paid on your meter, which could cause a debt you would need to pay back.
  • Your energy usage will almost certainly increase during winter months; meaning your weekly top-ups would also have to increase. When you ‘pay-as-you-go’ this may be even more noticeable and have greater impact on your daily and weekly budgeting. It may help to spread out your payments evenly over the year to build up credit during the summer months, ready for the winter.

*This may be subject to change.

  • With our prepayment smart meters, if you only top-up by paying with cash at a PayPoint outlet, it is important to find out the opening times of your local PayPoint outlets, should you need to make an unplanned top-up at short notice.
  • If your ‘Emergency Credit’ runs out during ‘Friendly Credit’ hours your supply will not turn off. Your prepayment smart meter will continue to record your energy usage and your balance will continue to run into minus credit until ‘Friendly Credit’ hours are over. You will need to re-pay £10 ‘Emergency Credit’ plus any ‘Friendly Credit’ used over an evening, weekend or bank holiday and ensure you are back into positive credit by at least £1, in order to maintain supply.
  • If your prepayment smart meter top-up cards are lost or damaged and you request new cards be sent to you, there may be a replacement fee. We typically recover this cost through your smart meter by taking 25% of any future top-ups, until the charge has been repaid. Alternatively, you can choose to pay off any charges in one go at a PayPoint outlet. You should also be aware that there are FREE alternative ways to top-up without your top-up cards, for more information see the 'Where and how to buy your energy' section of this web page
  • When you sign-up with us you are agreeing to the installation of our prepayment smart meters and in-home-display. A 4-hour appointment slot will be arranged and the install only takes approximately 1 hour. You will need to make sure our engineer has clear and safe access to your meters and main electricity fuse and there must be an adult over the age of 18 at the property, for the duration of the visit.
  • In the unlikely event that a prepayment smart meter develops a fault and we cannot restore your supply over the phone, it could result in loss of supply. If this occurs we try to send an engineer within 4 hours to fix the fault from the time it is reported. An engineer may need to attend within 3 or 4 hours (depending on the time your fault is reported) and you would need to ensure access to your property for this time. You would need to make sure our engineer has clear and safe access to your meters and main electricity fuse, and there must be an adult over the age of 18 at the property for the duration of the visit.
  • NOTE: If you have had a prepayement smart meter installed by us and choose to change supplier, your new supplier may not be able to fully support our preapayment smart meters and may opt to exchange the equipment or operate the meter in ‘Credit Mode’ (like a standard billing meter). If this happens, you may lose some, or all of the prepayment smart meter’s functionality.

*This may be subject to change. For example, for Daylight Saving Time (when the clocks change).

  • Prepayment tariffs are typically higher, for example, if they are compared with competitive direct debit tariffs.
  • You may only be able to top-up your electricity key and/or gas card at a PayPoint outlet, so it is important to find out the opening times of your local PayPoint outlets, should you need to make an unplanned top-up at short notice.
  • Topping-up using your electricity key and/or gas card is the only way to purchase energy with a key & card meter - it is important to ensure your keys and/or cards are kept clean and safe to ensure they work properly. If your top-up key or card is lost or damaged and a replacement is required, there may be a replacement fee (there may be times you can’t collect a replacement key or card the same day).
  • If you are in the process of signing up with us and your existing top-up electrcity key, gas card or meter develops a fault before your smart meters are installed, we may need to carry out an emergency install. An engineer may need to attend within 3 or 4 hours (depending on the time your fault is reported) and you would need to ensure access to your property for this time. You would need to make sure our engineer has clear and safe access to your meters and main electricity fuse, and there must be an adult over the age of 18 at the property for the duration of the visit.
  • If you are in the process of signing up with us and your existing top-up electrcity key, gas card or meter develops a fault before your smart meters are installed, we may need to carry out an emergency install. An engineer may need to attend within 3 or 4 hours (depending on the time your fault is reported) and you would need to ensure access to your property for this time. You would need to make sure our engineer has clear and safe access to your meters and main electricity fuse, and there must be an adult over the age of 18 at the property for the duration of the visit.

Further information

If you signed up with one of our sales representatives, they would have left you with a Welcome Book which contains important information about our Smart Energy prepayment service, meters and benefits including frequently asked questions. If you signed up online or over the phone, a Welcome Book is sent in the post which usually takes bewtween 2-3 days to arrive.

In depth information about how to use your prepayment smart meters can also be found in our user guide, which is issued to all our customers when we install your meters.

Online prepayment smart meter support:

We need you to tell us about your circumstances so we can ensure a prepayment smart meter will suit your needs. Prepayment meters may not be practical for all customers, including those with priority needs. It is good to establish whether our meters are right for you. Before a prepayment smart meter is installed, we will always establish your individual circumstances and if appropriate, offer an alternative payment method.

In some cases, we can advise on a number of alternative prepayment budget and payment schemes. If you want details of the payment schemes which may available to you, please phone for details on 03303 337 440.

If a prepayment smart meter is not safe or practical for you to use, please call us on 03452 068 777. If you are on our Priority Services Register and have difficulty accessing your meters or topping-up remotely, we may be able to discuss alternative payment options and/or arrange the re-positioning of your meters in some circumstances. For more information on the Priorty Services Register, please click here.

In most cases, restoring your electricity and/or gas supplies is quick and easy and may be avoidable in the first place once you understand how your prepayment smart meters work. Loss of supply can be caused by a number of reasons - so it is important to establish what is causing this before the meter is assumed faulty. 

Any loss of supply queries, please refer to your user guide which should answer most queries. If you lose supply out of office hours and wish to speak to a Customer Care Advisor, you can always call our Emergency Line on 03452 068 999 between 8am and 10pm everyday.

If a prepayment smart meter develops a fault, it could result in the loss of supply. If this occurs and we can’t resolve the problem over the phone, we guarantee to visit and put the problem right.

If the meter fault is reported between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday, we will attend within 3 hours for electricity and 3 hours for a gas fault. If the meter fault is reported at the weekend or on a bank holiday between 9am and 5pm, we will attend within 4 hours. These are maximum time frames only; we always strive to attend sooner than this where possible.

If you let us know outside these times, and we can't attend the same day, then we will attend before 12pm the following working day, or 1pm on weekends and bank holidays. If we don’t keep our promise to call within the timescales set out above, we will credit your meter with £30 compensation.

If an engineer attends and any information provided relating to the nature of the meter fault is found to be incorrect, then a callout charge may be applicable. If we have to charge for a visit, we will add the debt to your prepayment smart meter, and it will be recovered at 25%* of future top-ups until cleared.

*This may be subject to change.

If your top-up cards are lost or faulty, don’t worry, you can top-up using the unique top-up numbers (printed on the front or back of your cards). We recommend you note these numbers down somewhere safe. The top-up card numbers can be used to top-up online, via our Automated Top-Up Line or manually typed in at PayPoint outlets. If you don’t have your top-up card numbers, you can contact our Customer Care Team, who can provide you with these, on 03452 072 000.

You can order replacement cards for a fee of £6 per card (If they are stolen and you provide a valid crime reference number, this fee will be waived). However, you can also generate a FREE, digital version of your top-up cards which can be scanned at any PayPoint outlet and each one is unique to your meter - we call these top-up cards ‘e-cards’ and they can be generated at www.utilita.co.uk/e-card

For each prepayment smart meter installed in your property, you will be given an electricity and/or gas top-up card with its own unique top-up card number - you can use this number to top-up your energy supplies online or at a PayPoint outlet, with or without the card itself. We recommend you always keep a copy of your top-up card number(s) in a safe place for future reference should you need them. There is a section on the back page of your user guide where you can note these number(s) down.

Whichever payment method you choose, your top-up will be credited to your meters automatically. Each top-up you make has its own unique ‘Top-up Code’ and like a text message, it is this code that is sent and received by your meters.

In most cases top-ups will credit your meters almost immediately but the time top-ups take to arrive can vary depending on phone signal strength in your area. You can also credit your meters manually by typing the unique Top-up Code in to your in-home display or the meters directly - you may choose to do this if it is not convenient to wait for your top-up to arrive automatically, or your phone signal is poor.

PayPoint Outlets:
You can top-up at any PayPoint outlet with your top-up card or just your top-up card number(s). PayPoint outlets are clearly recognised by their yellow PayPoint logo outside most local shops, supermarkets, service stations and post offices. The minimum top-up at a PayPoint outlet is £2 and the maximum is £45.

NOTE: In the event you mislay your top-up cards or just want to have extras, you can generate FREE ‘e-cards’ which are digital versions of your top-up cards that can be scanned at any PayPoint outlet and each one is unique to your meter. You can either print them out on paper or you can present them on the screen of a smartphone to be scanned in the shop. E-cards can be generated at www.utilita.co.uk/e-card

Automated Top-Up Line:
You can call our 24-hour automated top-up service on 03452 068 333 and top-up using a debit or credit card over the phone. You will also be required to type in your unique top-up card number (displayed on the front or back of your top-up card). The minimum top-up you can make is £5 and the maximum is £50.

Online:
You can top-up online at www.utilita.co.uk/top-up - you will need to enter your payment card details and your unique top-up card number (displayed on the front or back of your top-up card). If you are new to our online top-up service, you can register your account and payment details securely, making future online top-ups even quicker. The minimum top-up you can make is £10 and the maximum is £175.

Top-up App:

You can download our app that allows you to top-up via your smartphone or tablet (IOS or Android). You will need to register your account details, payment card details and your unique top-up card number(s) (displayed on the front or back of your top-up card). By registering you can securely save all your card details, making future app top-ups even quicker. The minimum top-up you can make is £10 and the maximum £175.

Once you have registered, the app can display your own ‘scannable’ electricity and/or gas barcodes on screen. These barcodes can be presented on your smartphone to PayPoint retailers - the barcodes can be scanned in store to process a top-up.

SMS (Text Message):
You can top-up by sending an SMS/text message*. Before you can use this service you will need to have processed one payment online or via our top-up app in order to register and securely save your debit or credit card details and mobile phone number. The minimum top-up you can make is £10 and the maximum is £175.

*SMS charged at local network rate. One SMS per supply.

Direct Debit:
You can also top-up via a monthly Pre- Pay Direct Debit and we will send the credit directly to your meter(s) on an agreed date every month. You can set this up by calling our Customer Care Team. Please be aware, if your energy usage exceeds your agreed monthly payment, you will have to top-up the difference either at PayPoint, by text message, online or via our Automated Top-up Line, to avoid losing supply.

For more detailed information about topping-up please visit www.utilita.co.uk/top-up/how-do-i-top-up

A prepayment smart meter can provide a more manageable way to help you repay a debt. You can repay outstanding debt with us, at a recovery rate of 25%* per top-up, in order to clear the debt and maintain your supply as a prepayment customer. If you are experiencing re-payment difficulties, please call our Customer Care Team on 03303 337 440 and we can disucss your circumstances. 

*This may be subject to change. For example, if otherwise agreed with the customer.

We send important information updates directly to your prepayment smart meters remotely, for example when there is a change in tariff or a change to Friendly Credit hours to accomodate bank holidays.

Most meter updates will be completed automatically. However, if this is not possible (most likely due to a lack of signal) an update code will be provided on your receipt when you next top-up. This code will need to be manually entered into your smart in-home display or meter, in order to register the update. The top-up code (normally a 20 digit number), will instead be a 40 or 60 digit code and the whole number should be entered into your smart in-home display or meter. 

NOTE: Key and card meters may also need to be updated with new tariffs. Key and cards collect any updates when being topped-up at PayPoint outlets then are transferred to the meters when the key or card is inserted.

Arrangements for site access

Where we can make a prior arrangement and provide a time slot for a visit we will, for example when we attend to install your smart meters. Our appointments are divided into two time slots for both, ‘am’ and ‘pm’:

Morning (am): 8-12 or 9-1*

Afternoon (pm): 12-4 & 1-5*

We ask for someone over the age of 18 to remain in the property for the agreed time slot and for the duration of the engineer’s visit. Typically an engineer will take about 1 hour to install your smart meters so if they arrive towrads the end of the 4 hour time slot, someone may be required to be at the property for approximately 5 hours.

If we miss you, we push a card through your door to let you know that we’ve called. We can’t guarantee that we can get back to you on the same day, but if you call our Customer Care Team, we will reschedule the appointment as quickly as possible.

*These times are inline with our new Guaranteed Standards in accordance with new 2016 legislation and will come into effect by the end of February 2016. Previously and up to this time, we have offered up to 5 hour appointments between 8am-1pm & 12-5pm.

An engineer may need to come and fix or fit your new smart meters. On occasion, we may also need to send someone to read or inspect your meters. A sales representative might knock on your door to offer you information about our services. Under extreme circumstances, we may need to send a debt recovery agent to a property for debt recovery purposes.

Each of our representatives will wear a valid photo ID badge, but not necessarily with the Utilita logo on it. This is because in order to deliver the best service possible, we sometimes outsource engineering work or meter readings to external 'Meter Operation Companies'. These representatives will always be trained to meet our high standards of practice, but do not be alarmed if they are not wearing our branded uniform as they are still operating in accordance with our rules, policies and procedures. All comments and complaints should still be directed to our Customer Care Team and will be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

You should always check the identity and business of any person before letting them into your home. All our visiting representatives, or representatives from companies employed by us to carry out work, have an identity card that they will show you without being asked. They will also confirm the exact reason they are calling.

You should check the card thoroughly; it should contain the following information:

  • Our name - 'Utilita Energy' or the name of the 'Meter Operation Company'
  • The name of the representative
  • A colour photograph of the representative
  • An expiry date (all cards are handed back on expiry or when a representative leaves the company)
  • A telephone number that you can call to check their identity
  • Their Agent ID Reference
If you have concerns about security, we offer a password scheme. This password can be up to 25 characters long. It is chosen by you and updated in our system. We will only ever give your password to our representatives and meter reading, Meter Operation or Gas/Electricity Distribution Network Company representatives who need to know it, and you can change it as often as you like.

NOTE: This ‘Information about Prepayment Meters’ page includes all necessary information in accordance with SLC28.

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