Watchdog urges consumers not to rush into switch to ESB


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

HOUSEHOLDS thinking of joining, rejoining or reaffirming their allegiance to the ESB have been advised not to rush into it until they consider all their options.



Ann Fitzgerald, chief executive of the National Consumer Agency, said confusion over the different offers available from the main power suppliers meant it was difficult to work out where the best value lay. 

"It is really difficult to work out price comparisons," she said. "I spoke to the Energy Regulator this morning and they are working on a price comparison site but that’s going to take time. I would say to consumers, do not rush. The offer is not going to go away." 

However, the ESB said while there was no deadline on signing up for the new offers, the discounts would only apply until the end of next March, so to get the benefit of a full year’s lower prices, consumers do need to sign up straight away. 

It is not possible to state the maximum discount in cash terms that an ESB customer might get as the biggest consumers save proportionately more, but an average household, using 5,300kWh (kilowatts per hour) of electricity in a year, has an annual bill of €990. 

Under the new offers, they could save up to €144 off that bill if they also sign on to have their gas supplied by ESB too. 

ESB says bundling the two will save the customer an additional €43 off the average annual cost of their gas bill where annual usage is at 16,000kWh — a total saving of €187. 

Airtricity says it goes one better, offering a bundled saving of €194 for new customers based on the same electricity and gas usage, although it accepts its standing charges "may vary" from other suppliers, in this case being dearer. 

Bord Gáis uses a different average consumption figure of 5,600kWh of electricity and offers savings of up to €120 for switchers to its services but that’s only on the electricity side. Its gas prices are still set by the Energy Regulator so it can’t yet offer discounts on the gas side. 

Simon Moynihan of the consumer and price comparisons website, Bonkers.ie, said the best value to be had was not from bundling at all but from using ESB for electricity and Flogas for gas, which could give savings of just over €200, but he said it was easy to understand why consumers often couldn’t find the best deals. 

"There is no stated national average consumption, which is infuriating when you’re trying to do clear price comparisons. It’s arguable that 16,000kWh of gas is higher than the average for example, and the way the different tariffs are structured, you’re not always comparing like with like. 

"It should be possible to do a direct comparison between standing charges and unit rates but we don’t have that information readily available so we’ve had to work them out as best we can," he said. 

Mr Moynihan said while consumers were under time pressure to switch, freedom from contracts meant they could switch back if they found a better deal. "It’s going to be a very promiscuous market out there with people switching suppliers every year but there’s not a lot to keep people loyal apart from price so that should be the deciding factor." 

Airtricity, however, said energy sources were a key factor for green-minded consumers and with 66% of its energy coming from renewable resources, it was way ahead of its nearest rival.


Read more: http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/watchdog-urges-consumers-not-to-rush-into-switch-to-esb-150365.html#ixzz1Ik6wb8Xo

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