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Independent

Householders join EU's biggest switchers as they drive down utility prices

IRISH householders are pushing down utility prices as they have become some of the biggest switchers in Europe – Brian Byrne

Around 16pc of gas customers and 14pc of electricity customers switched suppliers last year, according to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

As the battle to win customers heats up, gas supplier Flogas announced yesterday it will cut unit rates by 3pc from April 1, equating to savings of around €25 per year.

Other energy suppliers recently announced price reductions of up to 4pc.

Providers have further responded to householders' mobility as fewer energy customers are being disconnected for non-payment of bills.

The rate of switching "intensified" in 2014 as Energia joined the market, according to the CER's 'Electricity and Gas Retail Market Report' for Q3 2014.

Eurostat data showed that domestic energy prices are now about average in the eurozone, while the CER said it expected to see further reductions before next winter if low wholesale prices continued.

However, spokesman from price comparison website Bonkers.ie, Simon Moynihan, said it was "surprising" that the cuts had not been higher.

"While any reduction in energy costs should be welcomed, it is surprising that we haven't seen more substantial cuts given how much wholesale prices have come down over the last 15 months," he said.

Wholesale natural gas prices fell 27pc last year, while wholesale electricity prices were an average of 14pc lower during 2014 than in the previous year.

The CER report also showed that fewer customers are being disconnected for non-payment of bills, at 0.09pc of total gas customers and 0.15pc of total electricity customers during Q3 2014.

It comes after most suppliers agreed to never disconnect an engaging customer last year.

CER chairperson Garrett Blaney said: "Switching supplier is simple, free and fast, and it has absolutely no effect on quality of supply.

"Customers can easily switch supplier online or via phone at no cost, needing only the meter number from their current bill and payment details.

"In order to benefit from retail competition, the CER recommends that all energy customers consider switching or at least asking their current supplier if a better tariff is available."

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