MORE than 850,000 electricity customers in Ireland switched suppliers in one year because of rising prices.
That's the equivalent of around 40pc of all business and domestic customers in Ireland.
The change, between 2009 and 2010, was one of the highest supplier switching rates ever seen in Europe, according to the Commission for Energy Regulation.
The figure was revealed in the CER's annual report to the European Commission as consumers braced themselves for another round of increased electricity and gas prices.
The switch was facilitated by the CER "regulating the electricity market and approving a free and straightforward supplier switching process," it said.
"It shows that the market has been delivering for electricity customers, giving them choice and price discounts, which is of particular value in this difficult economic climate," said the CER report.
The domestic electricity market was deregulated on April 4, meaning that Electric Ireland, the rebranded name for ESB supply activities, can now set its own electricity prices for all its customers without prior approval from the regulator.
"This should help drive further choice and competitive prices for customers," CER said.
However, it admitted that retail competition in gas is less developed than electricity, "though about 14pc of al l Irish gas customers had switched supplier by end 2010, and this number is growing."
It said it put further emphasis on customer protection measures during the year and suppliers are now required to make multiple customer contacts before a disconnection, to provide more notice of disconnection and to use "plain English" in letters to customers.
It reduced the costs faced by electricity customers for disconnection and reconnection from €88 to €35, excluding VAT.
The cost of gas disconnections and reconnections was reduced from €61.74 to €30.87.
The CER said its "smart metering" pilot project progressed well in 2010.
"This will help inform the potential for smart meters to be rolled out nationally, with a decision to be made on this later in 2011," it said.