The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), in its 2018 Customer Care Team Annual Report, is reminding the public that the CRU is here to help when it comes to resolving their complaints with utility companies in the energy and water sectors
The report details the work carried about by the CRU’s Customer Care Team, which provides an independent complaints resolution service for customers who have an unresolved dispute with their energy supplier, network operator or Irish Water.
Last year’s CRU consumer focused campaign, ‘SwitchOn’, urged consumers to be aware of their rights as energy and water consumers and highlighted the free complaints resolution service provided by the CRU Customer Care Team.
There was a 63% increase in customer contacts received by the Customer Care Team in 2018. The Customer Care Team received 295 complaints, an increase of 15% on the number of complaints received in 2017. A total of 279 complaints were investigated and closed in 2018, an increase of 25% on 2017. In 46% of cases, the CRU found in favour of the customer, while 3% of cases were settled by customers accepting an early settlement offer from the supplier.
94% of the complaints investigated by the CRU in 2018 related to energy companies (suppliers and network operators), while the remaining 6% related to Irish Water. Billing issues made up the majority of complaints in both electricity and gas; 39% and 22% respectively.
The largest share of upheld complaints against energy suppliers (39%) was against Electric Ireland who held the largest combined market share (almost 44% of the electricity and gas market). The second largest share of upheld complaints (29%) was against BGE who had a combined market share of 23% in 2018. SSE Airtricity contributed to only 1% of upheld complex complaints although they had 12% of the market share. Pinergy has a high number of upheld complaints relative to its market share; 13% share of upheld complaints versus 1% market share.
In 2018 ESB Networks (ESBN) supplied electricity to 2.3 million sites and Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) supplied gas to over 697,000 sites. Based on the number of upheld complaints made to the CRU against ESBN and GNI, for every 10,000 sites, 0.10 complaints were upheld against ESBN; while 0.17 were upheld against GNI.
The CRU received 324 customer contacts in relation to Irish Water in 2018. This represents an increase of 86% from the level of Irish Water contacts received in 2017. Many of the contacts were from customers noting that Irish Water was failing to respond to their queries in a timely manner and/or not escalating their complaints.
In 2018 the CRU opened 21 complaints in relation to Irish Water; a decrease of 19% from 2017. Metering issues (25%) and customer service levels (19%) accounted for the majority of Irish Water complaints.
The CRU Commissioner with responsibility for the retail sector, Aoife MacEvilly, said:
“At the CRU we want the public to be aware of 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.
Irish Water, energy suppliers and network operators have a responsibility under the codes of practice and customer charters 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 also highlight areas where suppliers and network companies can improve their services.”
The full Customer Care Annual Report 2018 can be viewed here
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, calling 1890 404 404 (Lo-Call) or emailing email@example.com
 An upheld complaint is a complaint where the CRU finds in favour of the customer.