One-third switch to cheaper energy supplier
Published 29/04/2011 | 05:00
ONE in three householders has switched their energy supplier in the last year to avail of cheaper prices.
A survey by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), published yesterday, shows that customers have no loyalty to any one supplier and are willing to switch companies to get the best value for money.
But a significant proportion of customers want power companies to introduce a prepay system where they can pay in advance for their electricity.
All sections of society said they favoured this, particularly young people, who are used to 'pay-as-you-go' systems for mobile phone usage.
The CER said that prepayment was of interest to 31pc of consumers, which rose to 47pc of people who had built up arrears.
"The benefit of prepayment, most commonly identified as important, is the avoidance of unexpectedly large bills," the CER said.
Half of those aged 18 to 25 and 36pc of those aged 26 to 45 were interested in a prepaid system, the survey of 759 people found.
"Prepayment as a general payment option is familiar to most consumers through its use in the mobile phone market," the CER said.
"In Northern Ireland, prepayment is also a common method of paying for electricity usage with over 34pc of domestic consumers using it.
"However, prepayment, as an option for payment of electricity charges in the Republic, is only available to a very small proportion of households fitted with prepayment meters (token meters) and has been associated with poor payment history and debt.
"The level of interest does extend across all demographic groups including social grade."
The survey also found:
- Nearly one in three (29pc) customers said they switched supplier last year. This tallies with figures from the CER which found that since early 2009, over 850,000 customers (40pc of the market) have changed, one of the highest switching rates in the EU.
- Saving money was the reason 94pc changed supplier, and 97pc found the process "easy".
- 14pc will not switch, citing concerns about reliability or repairs.
- Two in every three (63pc) would like a comparison with the previous month's electricity usage printed on each bill, with monthly cost comparison figures "useful".