Sunday 25 March 2018

ESB to write off €20m unpaid bills

Fiona Ellis

THE ESB expects to write off about €20m in bad debts this year -- almost double the figure for 2008, the Irish Independent has learned.

The debts come despite the use of a number of debt collection agencies to recoup unpaid bills.

ESB management recently came under fire after it announced it had "de-energised" -- which is the company's language for "cutting off" -- 900 customers a month.

It has also been criticised for introducing a new levy to fund the production of 'greener' power that will add €30 extra on to domestic customer's annual electricity bills.

"ESB Customer Supply faces significant bad debt collection challenges and is expected to have bad debt write-off this year," a company spokesman said yesterday.

However, customers who may be thinking of cutting their losses and making 'the big switch' should be wary of leaving an outstanding bill with ESB.

Since 2005 the company have used collection agencies to try and retrieve final account debts from customers who fail to pay.

"ESB does not sell these debts to a third party, we engage the services of a debt collection agency to collect amounts owed on our behalf," said a spokesman.

"These agencies are used to collect debts left by former customers of ESB who have moved to a new electricity supplier.

"When a customer closes an account with ESB leaving an amount owing, letters and telephone calls are made to remind the customer of the amount still owing.

"If this debt remains unpaid, we use the services of a collection agency to collect this debt on our behalf," he added.

In December 2008 the company had to write off almost €10m in unpaid debt and it followed an EU-wide tendering and procurement process to hire debt collectors to try and curb the losses.

But this year, the ESB confirmed yesterday, the bad debt total is expected to top €20m, "a figure that has doubled since 2008", said the firm.

It has hired three debt collection agencies: Buchanan, Clarke and Wells, JB Debt Collection and Hugh Ward & Co Solicitors.

The ESB would not comment on how many customer accounts are passed along annually to debt collectors or how much time has to elapse until overdue customer accounts were passed over.

"ESB is not in a position to discuss individual customer amounts owing without compromising our data protection obligations, and the period of time associated with this debt collection process will depend on each individual case," said the spokesman.

Last year ESB made a profit of €580m.

Irish Independent

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