The CRU has an important role in regulating electricity and gas markets. One of our most important goals is to protect the interests of energy customers and to promote competition in the supply of electricity and supply of natural gas.
One of the key ways we protect customers is by putting in place “rulebooks’ for how energy suppliers must deal with customers. We call this rulebook document the Supplier Handbook.
The Handbook requires each energy supplier to produce a number of Codes of Practice across different areas. These include issues such as marketing, billing, disconnections, complaint handling and vulnerable customers. The Handbooks also require suppliers to produce a Customer Charter. The Charter guarantees their Codes of Practice, setting out the services provided and service quality levels offered. It also must set out how they will compensate and refund customers when service quality levels are not met.
All suppliers are required to publish their Customer Charter and Codes of Practice on their website. If you want to read your supplier’s Charter or Codes, you can visit their website. Links to the various suppliers can be found on our List of Energy Suppliers page.
Know Your rights
In order to know your rights, you should review your supplier's Codes of Practice, this will ensure you know what standard of service you are entitled to when you have any dealings with them. We have included some of the key customer protection measures that exist for customers under each of the Codes of Practice and these are set out below.
It is important to note that the points listed are only a small sample of the customer protection measures that are covered in the CRU’s Supplier Handbook. In order to know your rights, you should review your supplier's Codes of Practice, this will ensure you know what standard of service you are entitled to when you have any dealings with them.
It is quite a long document, but if you would like to understand all of the requirements in place for energy suppliers, you can review the CRU's Electricity and Gas Supplier's Handbook.
A supplier's Customer Charter guarantees their Codes of Practice, setting out the services provided and service quality levels offered. The Customer Charter sets out compensation and refund arrangements which apply if service quality levels are not met.
A penalty of minimum €30 applies per guarantee and suppliers must award customers where it is found that a guarantee has been broken.
Supplier Codes of Practice
Code of Practice on Marketing and Advertising
The aim of this code is to protect customers against unwanted, unfair or misleading marketing and advertising methods. Some of the key points are as follows:
- A supplier must adopt a fair and transparent approach to the marketing and advertising of their products and services.
- Suppliers must ensure that their employees do not exploit a person’s inexperience or vulnerability or apply undue pressure when marketing to a customer.
- Suppliers must ensure that all marketing and advertising is accurate and not misleading. It must also be communicated in plain and accessible language.
- Suppliers must publish available tariffs for household customers in a prominent and easily identifiable position on their website.
Code of Practice on Customer Sign-Up
This code sets out clear rules about the steps a supplier must take when they contact a customer for marketing purposes. Some of the key points are as follows:
- When a supplier contacts a customer by phone they must provide their name, the company they are calling from and contact details.
- If they call to a customer’s premises they must show an identity card with their name and photograph as well as the name and contact details of the supplier.
- When a customer tells the supplier that they do not wish to continue, the supplier must end the contact.
- If a supplier calls to a customer’s door, they must give the customer a copy of the doorstep checklist, which sets out the information they must give. The customer has to be given the checklist before the sales pitch begins.
- The times a supplier can contact customers for marketing is restricted. They cannot contact customers on Christmas Eve or any Public or Bank Holiday. They cannot contact customers on Sundays and can only contact customers between 9am and 9pm weekdays and 9am to 7pm onSaturdays.
- If a customer tells the supplier that they do not wish to be contacted again for the purpose of marketing, the supplier must log the request and remove that customer from their marketing database.
This code also sets out clear rules about what suppliers must do when they are opening a customer account. Some of the things the supplier must do are:
- Confirm that the person is entitled to open an account at the premises.
- Obtain the permission of the person whose name is being put on the account.
- If a joint account is being opened, the supplier must confirm with any other named person on the account that they wish to be named as soon as possible after the initial account opening.
- Provide a simple method for customers to add a third party contact.
- Tell the customer what they need to do to keep receiving their free gas or electricity allowances.
- They inform the customer about registering as a vulnerable customer.
- Provide the customer with a copy of the Terms and Conditions.
The supplier must also provide the customer with information about the product they are signing up to. This must include:
- All charges associated with the product. This includes the unit rate, standing charges and any prepayment charge.
- An explanation of any discounts and any penalties that apply.
- An explanation of any deposits required and how long the contract is for.
Once you sign up with a supplier and receive a copy of your Terms and Conditions, you have 14 days in which to change your mind. This is known as the “Cooling Off Period”. The supplier must tell you about this when you sign up and if you change your mind, you need to contact the supplier and let them know within the 14 day period.
Code of Practice on Billing
This code sets out the supplier’s processes in relation to information on the bill, paying bills, deposits, refunding deposits and credit owed to customers. Some of the key points are as follows:
- Bills must be accurately calculated based on actual readings, customer readings or estimated reads.
- Customers are entitled to receive paper bills (although discounts can be linked to electronic billing).
- Supplier must provide a choice of payment options.
- Suppliers must have a fair and reasonable policy in relation to deposits. The policy must be available to anyone who requests it.
- If a customer pays a deposit, it must be returned to them when they have paid all their bills on time for twelve months.
- The code must set out how customers can close their account.
- A customer is entitled to a final bill within six weeks of closing their account.
- If a customer is due a refund the supplier must notify the customer of this and tell them how they can be refunded.
Code of Practice on Disconnections
It is important to say that customers can only be disconnected for not paying their bills as a last resort. If you are experiencing difficulties paying your bills, you should contact your supplier and discuss it with them.
This code sets out the supplier’s processes in relation to disconnections. Some of the key points are as follows:
- Customers experiencing difficulties who contact their supplier will be made to feel that their case is heard sympathetically and that offers of repayment will be carefully considered.
- Customers are entitled to nominate a third party to represent them. This could include money advisory agencies (like MABS), a recognised charity or a Social Welfare Representative.
- Suppliers are required to provide customers who have difficulties in paying their bills with options to avoid disconnection of energy supply.
- Suppliers must assist customers in making a repayment plan and take account of their ability to pay when agreeing any such plan.
- Where possible, suppliers must offer customers with difficulties paying their bills a prepayment meter or budget controller.
- A customer cannot be disconnected if they have agreed a payment plan and are meeting all payments.
- If a customer has made a formal complaint about money owed, the supplier cannot disconnect the customer in relation to the disputed amount until the complaint process is completed. (all other bills must be paid as normal).
- If a customer is registered as vulnerable, they cannot be disconnected during the winter months (1st November to 31st March) for non-payment of bills. A registered vulnerable customer who is critically dependent on electrically powered equipment cannot be disconnected for non-payment of bills
Before a supplier disconnects a customer, they need to take the following steps:
- The supplier must make at least two attempts to contact the customer by notice in writing.
- The supplier must make at least two additional attempts to contact the customer.
- Each attempt to contact the customer should take place no less than three working days apart.
- The disconnection notice issued by a supplier must provide at least 10 working days’ notice in writing. The notice must specify the reason for disconnection and the costs involved.
When a customer who has been disconnected pays off their arrears or reaches an agreement with the supplier, the customer is entitled to be reconnected under the standard terms and conditions. This may include the payment of a deposit.
Code of Practice on Complaint Handling
Suppliers are required to provide an easy process for customers to use when they are experiencing difficulties. Some of the key points that are included in the code are as follows:
- Suppliers are required to accept complaints from recognised agencies or third parties who are confirmed as acting on behalf of the customer.
- Suppliers must provide the customer with a satisfactory explanation of their issue, an apology or some form of compensation (where appropriate).
- There must be at least one level for customers to escalate their complaint.
- Suppliers must resolve customer complaints within two months.
- When a customer completes their supplier’s complaints handling process, the customer must receive written notice of closure of their complaint.
- Customers who have completed their supplier’s complaint handling process are entitled to raise the complaint with the CRU.
The CRU offers a free dispute resolution service for customers with an unresolved complaint against their supplier or network operator. For information about how to log a complaint with the CRU, go to the Make A Complaint section of our website.
Code of Practice on Vulnerable Customers
A vulnerable customer is defined in legislation as a household customer who is:
- critically dependent on electrically powered equipment, which shall include but is not limited to life protecting devices, assistive technologies to support independent living and medical equipment, or
- particularly vulnerable to disconnection during winter months for reasons of advanced age or physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health.
If you or any member of your household meets the above definition, you should contact your electricity and gas supplier to register as a vulnerable customer.
The Code sets out the additional requirements that suppliers have for how they engage with registered vulnerable customers. Some of the key points that are included in the code are as follows:
- If a customer is registered as vulnerable, they cannot be disconnected during the winter months (1st November to 31st March) for non-payment of bills. A registered vulnerable customer who is critically dependent on electrically powered equipment cannot be disconnected for non-payment of bills.
- Suppliers are required to ensure that all registered vulnerable customers are on the most economic tariff available for their chosen payment method and billing format.
- The Code must be sent to customers by written or electronic communication at least once a year and on sign up.
- Suppliers must provide customers with an easy and free process to register as vulnerable customers.
- Suppliers must provide a form for customers to use to register as vulnerable.
- When offering customers Pay As You Go Metering or Budget Controllers, it is the supplier's responsibility to assess whether the services they offer are suitable for vulnerable customers.
- Suppliers must develop an adequate method of communicating with customers with vision impairments and hearing impairments.
- Suppliers are required to provide a simple method for customers to register a third party representative on their account where necessary.
Code of Practice on PAYG Metering & Budget Controllers
The requirements of this code apply to Pay As You Go (PAYG) meters and budget controllers. This means that the code applies whether the device was installed by the network company or the supplier. Some of the key points that are included in the code are as follows:
- Before installing a PAYG meter or budget controller the supplier must ensure the consent of the customer. If the customer is a tenant in a rental property, the customer must confirm that they have permission from the owner/landlord of the property to have the device installed.
- Suppliers must ensure that customers have reasonable access to vending facilities 7 days a week.
- Suppliers must provide a clear explanation of how the PAYG meter or budget controller works and make it clear that supply will be cut off if there is no credit.
- Where a customer is repaying a debt they must receive a statement of consumption, debt outstanding, debt repaid and payments made 3 times a year.
- When a customer is repaying debt a maximum of 25% of any top up can be used to repay that debt.
- It is the supplier’s responsibility to assess whether a PAYG meter or budget controller is suitable for a given customer (especially customers who may be vulnerable or have an impairment which could impact their ability to use the technology).
Non Domestic Customers
Suppliers are also required to produce Codes of Practice to reflect the service standards they guarantee for non-domestic customers. Below is a list of the Codes they must produce for non-domestic customers:
- Code of Practice on Marketing and Advertising
- Code of Practice on Sign Up
- Code of Practice on Customer Billing
- Code of Practice on Disconnection
- Code of Practice on Complaints Handling
It can be difficult to understand what your rights are and what you should do when you encounter any problems with your energy supplier. We are here to help you, so if you have questions about any of the items mentioned on this page, please feel free to contact the CRU’s Customer Care Team.
To see the different ways to contact us, to find out how, visit the Customer Care Team page.