Customers to pay price for training of gas-fitters
HOUSEHOLDERS will end up footing the bill for a decision by the energy regulator that could force plumbers and heating contractors to undertake costly new training courses, a consumer body has warned.
The Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) has called on the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) to reverse a plan for a new assessment system that could involve training costs of up to €1,000 each for gas installers.
However, CER said that the new assessment system it was bringing in did not necessarily involve any training as it provided for a test to assess competency at a cost of €170 for accreditation lasting five years.
It said the aim of this was to protect consumer safety by improving standards in the industry in line with Britain and Northern Ireland.
But CAI spokesman Dermott Jewell said the new system could involve costs of €1,000 each for gas installers to undertake courses with specified providers even though the industry had agreed to provide verifiable training at no charge to contractors.
"It's a simple fact that once a state agency loads an extra charge, fee or cost on to business, that charge will end up on consumers' bills. This will be no different," he said.
The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors said that the regulator should be chasing black-market operators rather than registered plumbers who were following the rules.
The standard for the test had been set so high that nobody would pass, meaning the training costs were unavoidable, a spokesman said.
CER said that it had prosecuted five unregistered tradespeople since 2009 for working on gas appliances in the home and would continue its efforts to improve safety.
Fianna Fail Energy spokesman Michael Moynihan called on the Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte to intervene in the dispute over charges.
A group of plumbers and contractors had demonstrated outside the regulator's offices in Dublin yesterday, he said.
While illegal operators were allowed go unpunished, registered plumbers and installers were being required to sign up for this costly new training programme or lose their right to work from January 1 next.
"This is a very heavy-handed approach to the ordinary, compliant plumber especially when you contrast it with the State's inactivity in the face of widespread illegal activity in the industry," Mr Moynihan said.