Irish customers to pay less for utility disconnections

The Irish energy regulator has confirmed that gas and electricity companies will only be able to charge customers 50% of the cost of disconnections and reconnections.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) says that in the current economic climate, households are finding it difficult to deal with domestic outgoings and consequently fall into arrears with their energy providers.

In a review, CER found that the number of disconnections has risen in the past year, particularly with electricity.

The move has been made to protect vulnerable customers and previously good credit customers so they are not left without heating or hot water at a time of economic hardship. It will also ensure disconnection is a last resort used by utility companies.

A supplier will only be able to recover 50% of disconnection and reconnection from domestic customers who cannot pay their bills and CER will be reviewing the level of such charges in January.

Suppliers will also be unable to recover the charges by relabeling them on bills as something else, such as an administrative charge.

The decision is unsurprisingly not welcomed by the gas and electricity suppliers who think it represents an unfair burden on them.

Energy companies will also need to provide a clear breakdown of disconnection costs to the customer and maintain a record of steps taken and considerations made when reaching a decision to disconnect. They have also been warned to use ‘plain English’ in communications to customers.

Alison Brown

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