Winter is usually a tricky time for bill payers, what with the heating being on for longer and more energy being used, but Covid-19 has made things exponentially more difficult when it comes to energy costs. However, Bord Gáis Energy is one supplier not leaving its customers in the cold.
As we face into a new year and yet another lockdown, the reality is that the majority of households will see an increase in their energy consumption, and thus, an increase in their bills.
With energy companies coming under increasing pressure to ensure that customers who can’t pay are not cut off, yet another supplier has stepped out on the issue.
Bord Gáis Energy (BGE) has announced that its disconnection moratorium for customers will remain in place for the duration of the new Level 5 restrictions, which are set to continue until the end of January, but which could be extended into February.
A disconnection moratorium essentially means that no residential customers will be disconnected for non-payment for a given period of time.
BGE now joins Electric Ireland in ensuring all its customers will not be cut off during the colder winter months should they experience financial difficulty.
Both Electric Ireland and BGE were also the only suppliers to officially announce a disconnection moratorium for their customers back in late 2020, before the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) announced an industry wide moratorium which lasted until December 1st.
Dave Kirwan, Managing Director of Bord Gáis Energy said:
Since the start of this pandemic we have encouraged anyone concerned about paying for their energy to engage with us. We're committed to being as flexible as possible and working with our customers to find payment solutions.
We introduced this disconnection moratorium during the last Level 5 restrictions and hope that today’s announcement will offer help to those that need it most. As always, we would also encourage anyone in difficulty to contact us; we can help set up sustainable payment plans that will ease the worry at this time and avoid undue debt build-up on their accounts.
Furthermore, BGE announced a price pledge in September of last year which guarantees to freeze residential gas and electricity prices until at least March 2021.
Electric Ireland moratorium
Electric Ireland was the first supplier to announce an extension to its disconnection moratorium, which will be in effect until March 1st 2021.
The disconnection moratorium will apply to all of Electric Ireland's 1.1 million residential customers.
As well as its commitment to making sure customers don't go without power, Electric Ireland also announced that it will credit the bills of approximately 10,000 of its most vulnerable customers with €100 credit each as part of its initiative for helping those in need during the pandemic.
Despite BGE and Electric Ireland being the only suppliers to make announcements regarding disconnections at this time, it doesn’t mean that other consumers are not protected.
CRU disconnection moratorium
Following the end of its industry wide moratorium on December 1st, the CRU announced on December 10th that disconnection requests from suppliers for domestic customers would not be carried out up until January 12th 2021.
Consumers will also be further protected and not left in the cold this winter thanks to the Energy Engage Code, a voluntary and supplier led pledge which ensures customers at risk of disconnection remain connected to their supply.
For example, the code makes sure that no customer whose account is in arrears, but who is actively engaging with their supplier, will have their supply disconnected.
While the CRU’s suspension on all connections is in effect until January 12th, BGE customers have a guarantee until the end of the current Level 5 restrictions, while customers of Electric Ireland have a promise until March.
Commenting on the news back in December, Chairperson of the CRU, Aoife MacEvilly said:
The CRU is continuing to encourage customers to be aware of their rights and the range of measures that are in place to protect customers, and especially vulnerable customers, during this Christmas period and further into the winter months.
While it is important that customers continue to pay their bills as usual to limit the level of debt that may build up, under the Supplier Energy Engage Code no customers should be disconnected due to arrears on their account, once they are engaging with their supplier. In addition to this, no domestic disconnection requests will be undertaken by the gas or electricity network operators from today until 12 January.
MacEvilly reiterated that the CRU will ‘continue to monitor the debt levels and the potential for increasing customer debt’, as well as taking further action if required, with a possibility of increasing its moratorium timeframe.
In the meantime, the CRU importantly highlighted a number of useful ways in which consumers can maintain accurate billing during the colder winter months.
Advice around billing
Consumers have been advised that submitting regular meter readings to your supplier ensures that your bill is completely accurate and that you’re only paying for what you use.
Similarly, customers who are on a Pay As You Go plan should continue to top up their account where possible to pay off any existing debt. This is important because it ensures emergency credit is available should a customer need it.
Another important point for customers to note around billing is that some suppliers may have suspended meter readings. However, it would still be possible to submit a meter reading by phone or through an online account where possible.
The introduction of smart meters and tariffs, which are scheduled to be rolled out sometime this year, could make submitting meter readings a thing of the past and help consumers with managing both their energy consumption and costs. To find out more just click here.
What’s happening with other suppliers?
If you’re not with Bord Gáis Energy or Electric Ireland, don’t worry as the existing consumer protection measures from the CRU, as explained above, will give you protection.
As it stands, no other suppliers operating in Ireland have made an official announcement on the issue of customer disconnections in 2021.
That being said, last year a total of four suppliers announced price freezes for their customers that would be in effect for much of the winter period.
Take a look below to see the price freeze guarantee from each of the four suppliers.
- Bord Gáis Energy - At least March
- SSE Airtricity - At least 31st January
- Energia - At least 31st January
- Flogas - At least March
If you’re worried about the energy supply to your home, always get in touch with your supplier in the first instance to see what can be done.
And if you think you’re simply paying too much for your energy, or have been with the same supplier for a number of years, it’s like we always say here at bonkers.ie, you can always…
Switch and Save
The rate at which consumers in Ireland switch their energy bills isn’t low by any means, but it can always be better, especially when switching your supplier is by far the easiest way to make real savings on your bills.
You’ll be glad to know that our energy comparison tool has made the job even easier for you, the consumer in finding the best deal on the market for your needs.