The government has urged Good Energy, Utilita and Scottish Power to help prepaid customers apply for £400 support vouchers after being branded as non-aiders.
About 30% of vouchers have yet to be redeemed by prepaid customers despite freezing temperatures in recent weeks, according to government figures published on Monday.
E Gas and Electricity is one of the best in delivering the Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS) with an 85% buyback rate, while Bulb comes second with 79%.
Those with the fewest redemptions are Good Energy, Utilita and Scottish Power, and the government is urging them and others to make sure they do everything they can to make sure customers with prepaid meters know what to look for and how to redeem their vouchers.
£5.7 billion has been donated to 99% of UK households through the scheme, with 71% of prepaid vouchers redeemed so far.
Customers receive the discount in the same way they pay their energy bills, such as direct debit, credit, smart meters and prepayment meters.
Most people get support automatically, but those who use prepayment meters receive monthly vouchers from their provider by text, email or post.
Providers are expected to tell customers where vouchers can be redeemed – at a Post Office branch or PayPoint store – and must make several attempts to contact customers who have not redeemed their vouchers.
Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The public has a right to know which suppliers are responsible for giving them this help and that is why I hold energy companies accountable to make sure they do everything they can to support their customers at the time.
“We will step up efforts to ensure that consumers know exactly what they need to do to redeem these vouchers, but we need suppliers to do much more and I want those numbers to go up.”
Which? Policy and Advocacy Director Rocio Concha said: “It is very worrying that around 30% of vouchers are still not redeemed – even with freezing temperatures last month – and that suppliers including EDF, Scottish Power, Energy Plus Supply Limited , Good Energy and Utilita do not ensure that this support reaches their customers.
“It is an urgent priority for the government and energy providers to work together to share best practices and rapidly improve the program to ensure that all customers using these prepayment meters – who are more vulnerable and on lower incomes – have access to this necessary support without further delay. .
“Customers using traditional prepaid meters should also be prioritized in introducing smart meters where appropriate so that financial support can be provided automatically in the future.
“If you’re using a traditional prepaid meter and haven’t received your vouchers or aren’t sure how to redeem them, contact your provider for more information and to make sure they have the correct contact information.”
Good Energy CEO Nigel Pocklington said: “As a supplier with a relatively small number of prepaid customers, we were able to do everything we could to encourage the redemption of EBSS vouchers.
“We do not install traditional prepayment meters because they are not effective in serving customers.
“For approximately 350 older traditional prepaid customers, we sent out multiple email and letter reminders, and made individual phone calls.
“Our own current figures show that our customers’ buyout rates are around 70% – in line with the government average.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to make sure customers don’t miss out on this important support.
“We would like the government to do the same, rather than attacking suppliers for the shortcomings of their own plan.”
A Scottish Power spokeswoman said: “Our inquiry into missed loans has identified vacant properties as one of the main reasons for money not being claimed and we are updating our system to reflect these accounts. When we include this in our reports, our buyout rate is 74%.
Utilita said: “We have a small number of customers with traditional pay as you go (PAYG) meters. Some have yet to redeem their EBSS vouchers – we estimate the figure to be less than 2% of the national quota – despite our best efforts.
“The real problem here is old-fashioned traditional PAYG versus Smart PAYG+, where we have 665,000 households – 95% of our PAYG customers – with 1.3 million smart gas electricity meters. Here we have successfully applied EBSS payments directly to the meter more than 2.6 million times with a 99.999% success rate.”
Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of Energy UK, said: “Customers using traditional prepayment meters should ensure their contact details are up to date and regularly check for communications with their supplier.
“Anyone who is worried about missing out on their vouchers or having trouble paying their bills should contact their energy supplier.
“The Government knows from the billions of pounds of benefits that go unclaimed each year that unfortunately it can be difficult to get help to those who need it most, but we remain fully committed to ensuring vouchers are delivered and redeemed and that support schemes work as successfully as it’s only possible.”
The figures line up with Mr Shapps’ demand over the weekend that energy suppliers should stop forcing financially stretched households to switch to pre-payment meters.
He also vowed to “name and shame” the worst offenders.