(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s energy regulator issued a legal order demanding that British Gas stop using court warrants to force the installation of pre-payment meters in people’s homes.

The country’s biggest household energy supplier must stop all warrant activities until “it can demonstrate compliance with our standards and requirements,” an Ofgem spokesperson said in a statement released Sunday. 

The development comes as Ofgem investigates a Times report showing British Gas subcontractors breaking into the homes of people struggling to pay their bills. Centrica Plc, the company’s parent, has said it would suspend the practice of obtaining warrants “at least until the end of the winter” and that protecting vulnerable people is its absolute priority.

Read More: British Gas Faces Probe Amid Forced Prepayment Plan Backlash

Overall, about 4.5 million households nationwide use prepayment meters, designed to help users avoid racking up bills they can’t afford. The meters require people to pay for energy in advance — at the post office or a shop, for example. Once that credit runs out, lights go off and heaters shut down. 

Rising energy bills and a severe cost-of-living crisis in Britain has forced millions of households into fuel poverty this winter. Centrica has benefited from higher prices in the wholesale market in the past year and is likely to face the political spotlight when it reports a near-eightfold boost to earnings for 2022 later this month.

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