LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - British energy market regulator Ofgem said on Tuesday it had agreed a new, tougher code of practice with energy suppliers on the forced installation of prepayment meters (PPMs) to better protect vulnerable customers.

In February, Ofgem asked all suppliers to stop such forced installations and began a review after a report in The Times newspaper said the practice was being used against vulnerable people who risked having their heating cut off if they did not pay.

The new code includes banning the involuntary installation of PPMs in the homes of those aged over 85, or where the occupant is severely ill. Suppliers must also make at least 10 attempts to contact a customer and carry out a welfare visit before a PPM is installed.

Ofgem said audio or body cameras would be worn by representatives carrying out installations, and those forced onto a PPM will be given 30 pounds ($37) of credit to help reduce the risk of them losing supply.

"If and when involuntary PPMs are used, it must be as a last resort, and customers in vulnerable situations will be given the extra care and consideration they deserve," Ofgem Chief Executive Jonathan Brearley said.

"We recognise that a careful balance is required to help manage debt, while protecting customers in vulnerable situations."

Last month the government said

more than 94,000 PPMs

were installed in homes in Britain using warrants and without customer consent in 2022.

Ofgem said it would consult on incorporating the voluntary code into suppliers' licences to make it legally enforceable.

"It’s now up to suppliers to follow the rules and for Ofgem to crack down quickly on any sign of bad practice," said Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.

"For too many the damage has already been done. Suppliers must now check that none of their existing customers are paying for their energy via a prepay meter when it's not a safe option for them."

($1 = 0.8057 pounds) (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan Editing by William Schomberg and James Davey)