The CRU has today announced a suite of new customer protection measures for the coming winter to further enhance the existing protections that are in place.
These new measures are being introduced in the context of the current volatility in global energy prices, with the objective of enhancing protection for domestic electricity and gas customers this winter.
The CRU sets out the minimum service requirements including customer protection measures that energy suppliers must adhere to in their dealings with energy customers in . the CRU Supplier Handbook. These rules are in place to ensure that customers experience a high standard of protection when interacting with energy suppliers.
In developing the new package of customer protection measures, the CRU, working with customer representative groups, energy suppliers and network operators, conducted a review of the existing Supplier Handbook to identify and address any existing requirements that could be enhanced or new requirements that could be included to further protect customers facing higher energy prices.
The new measures were developed as part of the CRU’s contribution to the National Energy Security Framework that was announced by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications in April as a response to Ireland’s energy challenges following the war in Ukraine.
The measures will be implemented into the technical and operational procedures of both suppliers and network operators over the next number of months. Some of the key measures that are being introduced include:
Extended Disconnections Moratorium: The current moratorium on disconnections for all domestic customers is in place between mid-Dec and mid-Jan. The moratorium for customers registered as being particularly vulnerable to winter disconnections is in place from 1 November until 31 March. During this period, ESB Networks will not undertake any disconnections for these customer groups.
All domestic customers: Moratorium extended to three months and from 1 December 2022 until 28 February 2023.
Vulnerable customers: Moratorium extended to six months from 1 October 2022 until 31 March 2022.
Note: Vulnerable customers registered as being critically dependent on electrically powered assistive devices cannot be disconnected for reasons of non-payment at any time and this protection remains in place.
Extended Debt Repayment Periods: The Suppliers’ Handbook currently does not require a minimum timeline to allow customers to repay any accumulated debt.
Debt repayment plans will be extended to allow a minimum of 24 months for customers to repay debt. Customers may repay debt in a shorter period if they prefer.
Implementation Date: 1 November 2022
Reduced Debt Burden on Pay-As-You-Go Top-Ups: The Suppliers’ Handbook currently allows suppliers to deduct up to 25% of a Pay-As-You-Go customers vend or top-up for debt repayment. This means a €20 vend or top up would have €5 deducted to repay any accumulated debt.
Reduction in the debt repayment level on Pay-As-You-Go meters from 25% to maximum 10% (i.e. a €20 vend would have €2 deducted to pay debt).
Implementation Date: 1 October 2022
Better Value for those on Financial Hardship Meters: Currently the Supplier Handbook does not require suppliers to place customers with a financial hardship meter on any discounted tariff.
All customers with a financial hardship meter to be placed on the cheapest tariff available from their supplier.
Implementation Date: 1 December 2022
Promotion of Vulnerable Customer Register: Currently the Suppliers’ Handbook requires that the Vulnerable Customer Code of Practice is “brought to the attention of customers”.
Enhanced requirements on suppliers to actively promote the vulnerable customer register and the protections it offers.
Implementation Date: 1 November 2022
These customer protections are complemented by the supplier led Energy Engage Code that 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 this code, suppliers will not disconnect customers who engage with them and must provide every opportunity to customers to avoid disconnection.
Commenting on the announcement, CRU Chairperson Aoife MacEvilly said: “The CRU is acutely aware of the significant challenges that all customers have been and will be facing in the context of increasing energy costs this winter. While the current measures provide a high level of protection for all customers, our focus was to enhance protection and security for the customers in greatest difficulty, including vulnerable customers, customers in debt and customers on financial hardship prepayment meters. These requirements will remain in place for all suppliers subject to future CRU reviews, with the first of these reviews to be undertaken in summer 2023. I would like to acknowledge the support of our Customer Stakeholder Group and suppliers in developing these measures”
The full details of these measures will be published shortly.