- Moratorium on domestic electricity and gas disconnections has been in place for a total of 42 weeks between March 2020 and end of May 2021 in line with Covid-19 restrictions
- Lifting of the Moratorium is vital to allow customers to engage with suppliers and address any arrears that may have built up
- Customers with difficulty paying energy bills are encouraged to engage with their supplier
- CRU consumer protections and the supplier Energy Engage Code ensure that engaging customers are given options to avoid disconnection
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has today announced that it will lift the moratorium that has been in place on disconnection of gas and electricity domestic customers for non-payment of an account effective from 01 June 2021.
This moratorium was put in place in January and was designed to provide another layer of protection for customers for the duration of the COVID-19 restrictions.
The CRU has continued to monitor the levels of customers arrears since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Since then, an upward trend in debt levels has emerged and it is clear that long-term debt may be a challenge for both customers and suppliers. A proportion of customers are remaining in debt with their energy suppliers for longer which, in effect, stores up the problem for customers to a later date.
The timing of the lifting of the moratorium in advance of the warmer summer months where energy consumption is traditionally lower, will provide further scope for customers to engage with their suppliers and help to bring any arrears to manageable levels.
In addition to this, the extended notification period before the lifting of the moratorium is designed to provide an increased window for suppliers and customers to fully engage and put in place appropriate debt payment plans.
The moratoriums were put in place to provide a temporary respite from disconnection. Customers should also be aware of their rights and the range of measures that are in place to protect them on an ongoing basis. Customers experiencing difficulty paying their bills are encouraged to engage with their supplier.
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.
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, CRU Chairperson Aoife MacEvilly said: “The moratoriums that have been in place since March of last year have served to provide an additional layer of protection to gas and electricity customers at a difficult time. As the Covid restrictions ease and society and the economy opens up again, the time has come to revert to the standard high levels of protection of that exist for customers. This will help avoid increasing customer debt.
We encourage customers to get in touch with their supplier as early as possible if they are experiencing difficulty in paying bills or wish to establish their eligibility to register as a vulnerable or priority customer. We also recommend that customers submit regular meter readings to their energy supplier. The CRU will continue to monitor the market to ensure that customers are given the full protections as set out in the supplier handbook.
Under these, all customers must be offered a reasonable and affordable debt recovery option which takes account of the individuals’ circumstances. This could be a payment plan or a pre-payment meter. Customers that engage and take one of these options will not be disconnected.”