British Gas

The Times

Posing as a British Gas debt collector, The Times’ head of investigations, Paul Morgan-Bentley, exposed how the company was routinely sending ‘agents’ to break into customers’ homes to fit pay-as-you-go meters, with those known to be extremely vulnerable seen as ‘soft targets’ by agents incentivised with bonuses. It was the winter of 2023, and rocketing energy prices were accompanied by a surge in customers falling behind with their bills. If families with pay-as-you-go meters can’t afford to top them up, their heating is cut off. 

Morgan-Bentley also found that warrants obtained by energy firms were signed off in batches by courts at a rate of more than one per second, allowing no time for proper scrutiny. The investigation had an immediate and significant impact: the share price of British Gas parent company Centrica fell, all UK energy firms were stopped from force-fitting meters and told to compensate customers who were wrongly targeted, courts were ordered to stop authorising warrants, and investigations were launched by the government, two parliamentary committees and regulator Ofgem. 

Morgan-Bentley’s investigation “stood up for people who are often overlooked or marginalised, at a time when they were desperate,” said the judges, who praised his “classic investigative journalism.”