The U.K. issues no-knock warrants to allow energy companies to enter without a householder's permission and rip out existing energy meters.
What would a massive, countrywide betrayal of a Human Right To Housing look like?
In America, such a betrayal might well trigger court cases which, backed by the U.S. Constitution, would be easily won. The authors of the U.S. Constitution may have slipped up by overlooking a basic human right to adequate housing. But should you happen be lucky enough to have a home to live in, the Constitution’s fourth amendment (and part of the U.S. Bill of Rights) offers considerable protection in the right to enjoy that home.
No such right is enshrined in the United Kingdom law as part of some form of constitution. The lack of such a document is recognized by some at least as a pressing need for a U.K. Bill of Rights. But as some politicians work energetically for such a constitutional document, human rights activists are concerned that the UK’s existing Human Rights Act might needlessly be sacrificed. There is a concern that a Bill of Rights and a Human Rights Act cannot comfortably co-exist.
Regardless of how these issues are resolved in the future, magistrates are currently batch-approving thousands of licenses that allow people working for gas and electrical companies to legally invade homes, with or without the owner’s or renter’s consent. This serial abridgement of basic human rights is happening daily.
These invasions can go ahead whether or not the customer has failed to pay their bill. Anyone deemed by the power companies to be at risk for defaulting on their energy bill can have their home invaded to install a ‘pre-pay’ energy meter, permanently replacing the existing ‘post-pay’ meter.
Once the pre-pay meter is installed, the resident is required to pay in advance for their heat and light. The cost of the energy from a pre-pay meter is higher than from a post-pay meter. If it suddenly goes cold and more heat is needed, more can be purchased. If there is no money to buy more, the power goes off. With the climatic changes accompanying global warming, this can be a life-threatening event for individuals or families that cannot afford to buy heat.
Older, post-pay meters can result in unpaid bills to the energy company. Leaving bills unpaid may be reasonably considered as unfair to an energy provider. But their legitimate profit-making concerns can surely wait for a more seasonable solution, particularly in the light of the U.K.’s runaway inflation and cold snap.
And with a primarily concern being the well-being of the population, not the impatience of profitable energy companies, the U.K. government and its judicial system are employing a shocking breach of basic human rights in order to satisfy a highly profitable industry.
There is a time and a place for everything, and mid-winter is not the time for government sanctioned home invasions to ensure those most struggling with horrendous inflation will toe the line and pay up or not, even if it kills them.
Read more in The Guardian: MPs call for ban on forced installations of prepayment meters
inews has done an investigation on this subject. Read more in-depth detail: Struggling energy customers facing ‘wild west’ system of warrants to force entry into homes
P.S. A few days before Christmas, one of the UK’s major energy suppliers, Ovo, has announced a halt to installation of pre-pay meters over Christmas, and will consider doing the same during future cold snaps. Read more at yahoo!news: Energy supplier Ovo halts forced prepayment meter installations over Christmas
This might momentarily produce a warm, gooey feeling towards Ovo from poverty-stricken households granted a moment of respite from a forced installation of a pre-pay meter. It won’t last long for those who will be plagued by energy uncertainty without any guarantee of heat to last them this winter, and the winters that follow.