Tuesday 16 July 2019

Rise in complaints about energy companies - and bills top the dispute list

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Money stock
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

THERE has been a rise in complaints about energy companies, mainly related to disputes about bills.

Most of the complaints upheld were against Electric Ireland, the market leading energy supplier.

Half of all the consumer complaints that were investigated were upheld in favour of consumers, the energy regulator has revealed.

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities said it was contacted by almost 5,000 consumers last year, a 63pc rise on the previous year.

Almost 300 of these contacts turned into complaints, mostly about utility companies.

Only a small number of complaints related to Irish Water.

The regulator stressed that it provides an independent complaints resolution service for consumers who have unresolved disputes with their energy supplier and with network operator Irish Water.

The service is free.

There was a 63pc rise in customer contacts received by the regulator last year, with 4,870 householders getting on to the customer care team.

The regulator said it received 295 complaints, an increase of 15pc on the number of complaints received in 2017. 

A total of 279 complaints were investigated and closed in 2018, an increase of 25pc on 2017.

In 46pc of cases, the regulator found in favour of the customer, while 3pc of cases were settled by customers accepting an early settlement offer from the supplier.

More than nine out of 10 of the complaints investigated related to energy companies, both suppliers and network operators, while the remaining 6pc related to Irish Water.

Billing issues made up the majority of complaints in both electricity and gas.

There are 11 energy suppliers in this market.

This month Spanish electricity giant Iberdrola announced it was entering the retail energy market here in a move that is set to put pressure on existing players.

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities said the largest share of upheld complaints against energy suppliers was against Electric Ireland.

The second largest share of upheld complaints was against Bord Gáis Energy. Next was SSE Airtricity, although it contributed to only 1pc of upheld complex complaints.

Pay-as-you-go supplier Pinergy had a high number of upheld complaints relative to its market share, the regulator said.

The regulator received 324 customer contacts in relation to Irish Water, an increase of 86pc from the previous year.

Many complained that Irish Water was failing to respond to their queries in a timely manner, or was not escalating their complaints.

Some 21 complaints in relation to Irish Water were opened, a decrease of 19pc from 2017. Metering issues and customer service levels were the main issues.

Commissioner with responsibility for the retail sector Aoife MacEvilly said Irish Water, energy suppliers and network operators have a responsibility under the codes of practice and customer charters set out by the regulator to maintain a minimum level of customer service.

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