Ofgem has reminded energy companies which have begun to fit smart meters for their domestic customers that they must continue to meet current licence requirements in respect of disconnection and switching customers to prepayment terms.
The regulator is currently reviewing licence issues in this area and plans to introduce a package of measures in spring 2011 to safeguard consumers as the rollout of smart meters gathers momentum.
Maxine Frerk, the Ofgem partner for sustainable development, has written to companies highlighting the need to ensure vulnerable customers are safeguarded.
She has also raised the issue of "load limiting", a potential alternative to total disconnection which smart metering could make much more practicable.
She has told suppliers that such an alternative to total disconnection "may still amount to a supplier stopping a supply".
In the case of using smart meters to switch customers to prepayment measures, the watchdog has stressed that companies must inform customers in a timely manner about both the planned switch and also what they will need to know about operating the meter in prepayment mode.