THE Government are being urged to put more resources into the gas and electricity regulation body to help it clear a backlog of complaints.

Gas and electricity body calls on State

The Commission for Energy Regulation(CEr) said they have had only four staff on their team that investigates complaints about gas and energy suppliers since 2008, despite complaints rising by a massive 858 per cent in that period.

they also said that their aim is to resolve customers' complaints within a four-month timeframe — but revealed: "At present, we are experiencing a backlog of complaints and we are not achieving this."

The Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) said the Government needs to put resources into the CER to ensure that complaints are resolved as quickly as possible.

Dermott Jewell of the CAI said: "Every effort needs to be made so that these cases are dealt with.

"The current situation of people having to wait for long periods to have their complaints resolved is not acceptable." The CER said their four complaint inspectors were helped last year by the outsourcing of their call centre to an external provider to deal with general enquiries.

They said this allowed them "to focus on resolving customer complaints".

The CER said the number of official complaints they received that required investigation increased from 52 in 2008 to 508 last year.

The number of 'contacts' the CER received — which are general queries and 'standard complaints' that don't require investigating — increased from 379 in 2008 to 3,067 in 2012, which is a rise of 709 per cent.

And the CER added:  "The number of customer contacts and complaints received is expected to be higher in 2013." This comes as gas and electricity users struggle to afford fresh price hikes this year.

Price comparison website Bonkers.ie has said these cost increases will result in energy bills being higher than ever — at an average of €2,177 over 12 months.

The CER said the increase in investigated complaints is due to a number of factors, including more people becoming aware that they can take their complaint to the regulator's ECT team.

Some of the most common complaints that require investigation are issues with billing, metering and the closing of accounts.

The CER's latest annual report available, which is for 2011, states that their highest level of contact was from Airtricity customers at 38 per cent, followed by Bord Gais Energy at 17 percent and Electric Ireland just behind at 16.64 per cent.

The Commission for Energy Regulation was first set up in 1999 as the State regulator for the electricity and natural gas sectors in Ireland.

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