The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has reminded customers to Switch On to their Rights when dealing with utility companies in the energy and water sectors with today’s publication of the Annual Customer Care Report for 2017.
The report details the work carried about by the CRU’s Customer Care Team, which was established in 2006, and provides an independent complaints resolution service for customers who have an unresolved dispute with their energy supplier, network operator or Irish Water.
The CRU’s new consumer focused campaign, ‘SwitchOn’, urges customers to be aware of their rights as utility consumers and highlights that the CRU Customer Care Team is available to help them with unresolved issues.
During 2017, there were almost 3,000 contacts to the Customer Care Team, a reduction of 11% since 2016. The CRU opened 232 investigations into complaints within the energy sector in 2017, 46% of which were either upheld in favour of the customer or the customer accepted a settlement offer.
An example of one such complaint investigated by the Customer Care Team involved a customer’s prepayment Meter. The customer attempted to switch electricity supplier, but was notified of an outstanding debt on the account of €509. Due to the failure of the supplier to adequately inform the customer of the actions required when topping up, it caused the customer to remain in debt, despite believing they had cleared their debt. The first communication the customer received regarding the outstanding debt was a letter threatening legal action. The complaint against the supplier was upheld and the CRU instructed the supplier to write off 50% of the debt.*
The electricity and gas supply and networks market generated 90% of all complex complaints to the CRU. Complex complaints are contacts from customers that require a full investigation. Billing issues made up the majority of complex complaints closed in both electricity and gas, at 58% and 69% respectively.
While Electric Ireland held the largest combined market share (46%), they only accounted for 26% of all complex complaints closed. By comparison, Bord Gáis Energy, with a combined market share of 23% in 2017, accounted for 42% of all complex complaints closed. SSE Airtricity had a 14% market share and contributed only 2% of complex complaints. SSE Airtricity, PrePayPower and Electric Ireland fall below the average level of complaints per 10,000 customers in 2017 for large suppliers (suppliers with over 100,000 customers).
In the case of SSE Airtricity, it has continued to reduce the number of complaints taken against them. In 2017 they had 0.05 of complex complaints per 10,000 customers, the lowest of the large suppliers and significantly less than its levels in 2013, 2.1 complex complaints per 10,000 customers. Bord Gáis Energy had the highest level of complex complaints at 0.81 per 10,000 customers, but this has decreased year on year since 2013.
In terms of the networks that supply electricity and gas to customers, this is delivered through ESB Networks (ESBN) and Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) as regulated monopolies. ESBN supplied electricity to 2.3 million sites and GNI supplied gas to over 681,000 sites in 2017.
Based on the number of complex complaints made against network operators, for every 10,000 sites, 0.2 complex complaints were logged against ESBN, which is the same as 2016. There were 0.4 complex complaints per 10,000 sites against GNI which was a welcomed decrease from2016, when there were 0.6 complaints per 10,000 sites.
The number of complex complaints relating to water decreased by 46% in 2017. This is mainly due to the suspension of domestic billing in 2017. The CRU investigated and closed 26 complex complaints relating to Irish Water in 2017.
The CRU Commissioner with responsibility for the retail sector, Aoife MacEvilly, said: “At the CRU we want the Irish public to continue to ’Switch On’ to their rights and know that the CRU provides an independent dispute resolution service to ensure customers are receiving fair treatment from their energy and water providers.
While the CRU Customer Care Team have continued to see a reduction in the number of complaints it has received, indicating that suppliers and network operators are upping their game in how they are dealing with customers, it is important for Customers to remember that they have rights.
Irish Water, energy suppliers and network operators have a responsibility under the codes of practice set out by the CRU to maintain a minimum level of customer service. By registering their complaints with the CRU, customers can be safe in the knowledge that they will receive an independent decision and highlight areas where suppliers and network companies can improve their services.”
Energy or water customers who have an unresolved complaint with their service provider are encouraged to contact the CRU Customer Care Team by visiting the website, www.cru.ie, or calling 1890 404 404 (Lo-Call) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The full Customer Care Report 2017 can be viewed here