Bord Gais loses 129,000 accounts in last 18 months
CUSTOMERS are making the big switch away from Bord Gais, as the company has lost 129,000 gas customers in the last 18 months.
New figures from the energy regulator show that even before a price hike this autumn, Bord Gais has been losing around 7,000 gas customers a month this year.
But its new rival in gas supply, ESB, has been signing up over 3,000 customers a month since it entered the gas market in April.
This is some revenge for the 300,000 electricity customers Bord Gais poached from it in the first year of its Big Switch campaign.
Meanwhile, Bord Gais is seeking a 28pc price increase on its regulated gas prices (see panel).
But the bad news is that it- will also be passed on to ESB gas customers, as their rates are directly linked to the regulated ones.
It is expected other gas suppliers Flogas and Airtricity will also pass on any increases approved by the regulator.
A spokesman for ESB Electric Ireland said that while customers would maintain their discount of up to 6pc on the regulated Bord Gais rates, any increase in the base tariffs would automatically be passed on. And he signalled that an electricity price increase is also likely for ESB customers this autumn.
This follows a Bord Gais decision to raise tariffs by 12pc next month, because there was "upward pressure on price" due to high international fuel prices.
"We are keeping the matter under review, but it is too early to make a call on it yet as it will depend how the market goes over the next couple of months, and we don't intend to bring in any increase before October," he said.
Ireland continues to have one of the highest utility switching rates in the world as hardpressed householders aim to get the best deals on offer.
The latest figures from the Commission for Energy Regulation show Airtricity has been the big winner, attracting almost 111,000 gas customers in the last year. However, its success has been hit by ESB's entry to the gas market in recent months. The number of new Airtricity customers fell from over 8,000 a month back in January to under 5,000 in June; while it also lost over 2,000 gas customers last month.
Flogas remains a relative minnow in the market, but it signed up over 600 customers last month and offers some of the best savings on gas prices.
Bord Gais said that while it had lost 37,000 gas customers this year, that was nowhere near the level of switching seen during the Big Switch campaign, when it poached 30,000 electricity customers a month from the ESB.
It said it continued to win electricity customers with a net gain of 8,500 this year.
While it would like to be able to set its own gas tariffs as it was now the only regulated player in the Irish energy market, that was still some way off because Bord Gais still had 80pc of the market, a spokesman said.