Information for energy customers during Winter months
Customer Protection Measures
The CRU reminds all electricity and gas customers to be aware of their rights and the range of measures that are in place to protect them through the winter months.
The protection measures that are currently in place cover a wide range of customer groups that may experience financial hardships during or are vulnerable customers that require additional supports.
The existing protection measures address billing, disconnections and a supplier code of conduct for dealing with customers who have difficulty paying bills.
Energy Engage Code
The supplier led Energy Engage Code provides a further level of security for domestic electricity and gas customers. This code encourages customers, who are having difficulty in paying a bill, to engage with their supplier regarding the management of debt.
Under the Energy Engage Code:
- Suppliers will not disconnect a customer who is engaging with them
- Suppliers must provide every opportunity to customers to avoid disconnection
- Suppliers must identify customers at risk of disconnection and encourage them to talk to them as early as possible
- Suppliers must offer a range of payment options, such as a debt-repayment plan for a customer in arrears
As the designated network operators, ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland are the only bodies that can undertake electricity and gas disconnections under the direction of suppliers for a non-payment of a debt.
ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland will put a suspension on this activity during the Christmas period for all electricity and gas customers and will not carry out disconnection requests from suppliers between 9 December 2021 and 11 January 2022.
Under the supplier handbook, which is the code of practice that sets out the responsibilities for all licensed electricity and gas suppliers, registered vulnerable and priority customers* cannot be disconnected from their supply between the period 1 November 2021 until 31 March 2022.
The CRU encourages customers to submit regular meter reads to their suppliers to ensure they are being billed accurately and do not have to pay a catch-up bill. Pay as You Go customers should also, where possible, continue to top up their account to pay down any existing debt to ensure emergency credit is available to them if it is required.
Customers may find themselves in vulnerable situations at different times. This may result in customers having difficulties when dealing with their suppliers and network operators. These customers are entitled to additional protection.
What Protections Are In Place for Vulnerable Customers?
Whether you are an energy customer or a customer of Irish Water, there are a range of additional protection measures in place for registered vulnerable customers. This includes measures around communication, disconnection and other important areas.
Each energy supplier and Irish Water has produced a code of practice on vulnerable customers. The CRU monitor and audit compliance with these Codes of Practice to ensure vulnerable customers are protected. You can also review the CRU’s document showing the key points that must be included in the code of practice.
Please see CRU’s requirements around the Code of Practice for Vulnerable Customers in the following document website links:
Electricity and Gas Customers: CRU Energy and Gas Suppliers’ Handbook pages 43-47
Irish Water Customers : CRU Irish Water Domestic Customer Handbook pages 26-30
Am I a Vulnerable Customer?
For energy customers you could be classified as a vulnerable customer if you meet the following criteria:
- If you are critically dependent on electrically powered equipment. This includes (but is not limited to) life protecting devices, assistive technologies to support independent living and medical equipment, or
- If you are particularly vulnerable to disconnection during winter months for reasons of advanced age or physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health.
For customers of Irish Water, you could be classified as a vulnerable customer if you meet the following criteria:
- If you are critically dependant on water for their medical needs, or
- If for reasons that may include advanced age or physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health reasons, you require additional support communicating with, or receiving services from, Irish Water.
What Should I do if I’m a Vulnerable Customer?
If you are a member of your household is a vulnerable customer, it is important to let your energy supplier and/or Irish Water know. Energy suppliers and Irish Water are required to establish, maintain and regularly update a register of vulnerable customers. They must also take reasonable steps to identify household customers who should be included, however, it is also up to you to let them know if you are a vulnerable customer.
Energy suppliers and Irish Water are required to provide customers with a free and easy way to register as a vulnerable customer. You should contact your supplier to discuss how you can register as a vulnerable customer.
Difficulty Paying Your Energy Bill
In the event that you are facing difficulty paying your electricity or gas bill, you should contact your supplier and seek to come to agreement on a payment plan. The CRU require suppliers to have trained staff in place, who will deal with your case sympathetically. Suppliers must arrange practical payment plans to assist domestic customers who have built up arrears. Any repayment arrangements must take into account the customer’s circumstances and must be reasonable and affordable.
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