Following the recent activation of Level 5 measures as set out in the Government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has put in place a moratorium on all disconnections of domestic customers to take effect from 8 January 2021. This moratorium will remain in place for the duration of the current Level 5 restrictions.
The CRU is encouraging all customers to avoid building debt by continuing to pay bills as usual or, if they face difficulty doing so, to engage with their supplier to enter into payment arrangements.
The CRU has been closely monitoring the arrears levels of customers and the number of disconnections during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the arrears levels have increased, the levels of disconnections have not risen correspondingly when compared to previous years, indicating that suppliers are working with their customers to avoid disconnections.
While the CRU acknowledges the steps that suppliers are taking to protect their own customers, it considers the temporary moratorium to be an important protection for customers at a challenging time.
While the moratorium provides a temporary respite from disconnection, the CRU is also concerned that customers may face higher debt, particularly as bills increase during the winter months.
Customers are encouraged to:
- Continue paying their bills as usual, where possible.
- Engage with their suppliers if they are having difficulty paying a bill or managing any debt that they may have.
- Submit regular meter reads to their suppliers to ensure they are being billed accurately and do not have to pay a catch-up bill.
As the moratorium is temporary, customers should also be aware of their rights and the range of measures that are in place to protect them on an ongoing basis.
Energy Engage Code
Under the supplier led voluntary Energy Engage Code, suppliers will not disconnect a customer who is engaging with them. Suppliers must also provide every opportunity to customers to avoid disconnection and must identify customers at risk of disconnection and encourage them to talk to them as early as possible. Suppliers are also obliged to offer a range of payment options, such as a debt-repayment plan for a customer in arrears.
The CRU is also encouraging 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.
ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland will put a suspension on this activity during the Christmas period and will not carry out disconnection requests from suppliers between 10 December 2020 and 12 January 2021.
Customers can find further information on the customer protection measures on www.cru.ie or by calling our Customer Care Team on 1890 404 404.
Commenting on the announcement, Aoife MacEvilly, Chairperson of the CRU said:
“While the CRU considers this temporary moratorium to be an important protection for customers at this time, we are equally concerned about the potential for increasing customer debt. This is why we are encouraging all customers to continue to pay their bills as usual, or if they face difficulty doing so, to engage with their suppliers. The CRU acknowledges that suppliers are also taking steps to protect their own customers.
“The CRU is also encouraging customers to switch on to their customer rights, including the protections in place for vulnerable customers. The CRU will continue to monitor the situation and will take any further steps that are necessary.”