The ESB has bowed to pressure to extend discounts on electricity and gas prices to customers in arrears who are making a genuine effort to clear their debts.
The discounts could be worth up to €95 a year to households in financial difficulty -- but this is just half as much as the €190 saving available to electricity customers with a good payment record.
Communications and Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte had called on the electricity provider to extend discounts announced last week to customers in arrears after they were initially excluded.
ESB Electric Ireland said discounts of up to 6pc would now be made available to customers who had meters installed at home to control their electricity use, and also to those who entered into and maintained instalment payment plans to deal with their arrears.
The discounts being made available through the Household Budget Price Plan are equivalent to those offered to social welfare recipients who may be in arrears. There will be a standard 4pc discount, with another 2pc added if customers receive their bills online.
However, they are less than the maximum 14pc to 17pc discounts available to customers with a good payment record -- although most can also avail of the extra 3pc cut in electricity unit prices if they sign up for gas as well, bringing the total discount to 9pc.
Labour TD Kevin Humphreys said ESB could do better.
"While I understand that the prospect of a greater discount will act as an incentive to customers to get out of arrears, the fact that they are being penalised to the tune of 8pc will actually make it more difficult to achieve this," he said.
The ESB said the fact that customers in arrears would still face higher charges than others reflected that their accounts were more expensive for the company to operate.