Energy customer protection measures
Customer Protection Measures
The CRU has introduced some extended customer protection measures to help domestic electricity and gas suppliers this Winter.
These measures have been put in place due to the current increases in global energy prices.
For Winter 2022, the usual 1-month pause on disconnections for non-payment has been extended to three months, from 1 December 2022 until 28 February 2023.
For Vulnerable Customers, the pause on disconnections for non-payment has been extended to 6 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.
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.
Currently, suppliers can deduct up to 25% of a Pay-As-You-Go customer's vend or top up for debt repayment. This means a €20 vend or top-up would have €5 deducted to repay any accumulated debt.
For Winter 2022, there will be a reduction in the debt repayment level on Pay-As-You-Go meters from 25% to a maximum of 10% (i.e. a €20 vend would have €2 deducted to pay debt).
Financial Hardship Meters
All customers with a financial hardship meter will be placed on the cheapest tariff available from their supplier.
This will take place from 1 December 2022
Vulnerable Customers Register
Suppliers will be required to actively promote the vulnerable customer register and the protections it offers from 1 November 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.
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.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties, there are a number of organisations that may be able to assist you.
The Department of Social Protection also have An Exceptional Needs Payment. This is a single payment to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. For more information on this follow this link: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/80b24c-exceptional-needs-payments-swa/
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is the State’s money advice service, guiding people through dealing with problem debt. If you have problem debt, or if you feel like your debts are in danger of becoming a problem, then they can help you. MABS runs a Helpline (0818 07 2000) Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) and also operates from more than 60 locations nationwide. To find out more about MABS, visit their website.
As part of the Household Benefits Package, some customers may be entitled to support for paying their electricity or gas bills. The allowance is paid either as a monthly credit on a customer's bill or directly to the customer. You can find out more about the Household Benefits Package on gov.ie.
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.
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