The CRU has announced new protections for customers who may be experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the ongoing energy crisis.
We all know how dire the energy outlook is for the upcoming winter period, that’s why the country’s energy regulator has today announced a suite of new customer protection measures.
Among the new measures revealed by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) include an extension to the existing disconnections moratorium and a new debt repayment period.
The new measures were developed as part of the CRU’s contribution to the National Energy Security Framework.
Customer representative groups, energy suppliers, and network operators were all involved in developing the measures which will “further enhance the existing protections that are in place”, according to the regulator.
New customer protection measures
The CRU sets out the minimum service requirements, including customer protection measures, that energy suppliers must adhere to in their dealings with energy customers in the CRU Supplier Handbook.
These rules are in place to ensure that customers experience a high standard of protection when interacting with energy suppliers.
The CRU has updated the rulebook with several new measures...
Extended Moratorium on disconnections
All domestic energy customers will have the moratorium period extended to three months. The period will run from 1st December 2022 until 28th February 2023.
Meanwhile, the moratorium for customers registered as being particularly vulnerable is in place from 1st October until 31st March - a total of six months.
A disconnection moratorium means that, for the agreed period, ESB Networks or Gas Networks Ireland will not disconnect someone’s energy supply for non-payment.
Extended debt repayment periods
Before today, there was no minimum timeline to allow customers to repay any debt accumulated from energy bills.
However, debt repayment plans will now be extended to allow a minimum of 24 months for customers to repay debt, effective from 1st November.
of course it’s always possible to repay debt in a shorter period if preferred by the customer.
Reduced Debt Burden on Pay-As-You-Go Top-Ups
Suppliers were previously allowed to deduct up to 25% of a customer’s PAYG top up which would go towards debt repayment.
This has now been changed to a maximum of 10% from 1st October. In other words, a customer topping up by €20 would now have €2 deducted, as opposed to €5 before.
Better Value for those on Financial Hardship Meters
Currently the Supplier Handbook does not require suppliers to place customers with a financial hardship meter on any discounted tariff. In other words, struggling customers are not necessarily always on the cheapest possible plan.
The new measures however will see all customers with a financial hardship meter placed on the cheapest tariff available from their existing supplier from 1st December 2022.
The CRU said that all of the above measures will be implemented into the technical and operational procedures of both suppliers and network operators over the next number of months.
Promotion of Vulnerable Customer Register
As well as all of the above, the Suppliers’ Handbook requires suppliers to inform relevant customers of the Vulnerable Customer Code of Practice. This makes sure that the supply of those who may be dependent on electrically powered equipment for example, or particularly vulnerable to disconnection during winter months is not turned off.
Enhanced requirements now mean that suppliers must actively promote the vulnerable customer register and the protections it offers.
This change is effective from 1st November 2022.
Commenting on the announcement, CRU Chairperson Aoife MacEvilly said:
The CRU is acutely aware of the significant challenges that all customers have been and will be facing in the context of increasing energy costs this winter.
While the current measures provide a high level of protection for all customers, our focus was to enhance protection and security for the customers in greatest difficulty, including vulnerable customers, customers in debt and customers on financial hardship prepayment meters.
These requirements will remain in place for all suppliers subject to future CRU reviews, with the first of these reviews to be undertaken in summer 2023.
Will the measures be enough
Despite the CRU enhancing its protection measures, consumers will not be any more protected against the rising cost of energy, particularly this coming winter.
Energy bills for domestic energy customers have never been this high with prices already reaching unprecedented levels. Some customers are paying an extra €1,500 a year - more in some cases!
That being said, existing CRU protections of course do not give consumers free reign to not pay their bills. Rather, if a customer is experiencing financial difficulty, the measures ensure energy supply is not cut off, or only at the very last resort.
Should you be having trouble paying your energy bills, engaging with your supplier should be your first port of call. A supplier will never want to disconnect a customer and will always work towards helping a customer manage their debt.
While there’s no getting around the fact that the price of gas and electricity is soaring, consumers can still make sure they’re paying the least amount of money for their energy as possible. The best way to do so? Use bonkers.ie to compare!
Switch energy suppliers
If you haven’t changed your energy supplier in 12 months or longer, or if you’re recently out of contract, switching suppliers should be one of your main priorities when it comes to your household bills.
The only way to save money on the cost of your gas and electricity is to make sure you’re getting the best discount available. While some suppliers offer attractive retention deals, it’s likely you’ll save more by switching.
The good news is that comparing tariffs and switching on bonkers.ie is not only free, but it’s also very simple. You can conduct an energy comparison in seconds using our comparison tool here, and then switch and save in a matter of minutes.
For more information on support services available to consumers experiencing difficulty paying their bills, have a read of our energy guide here.
Don’t forget that you can also compare prices and deals for a range of other services on bonkers.ie, including broadband, insurance types and banking products. Take control of your bills and see how much you could save today.
Talk to us
What do you think of the latest measures from the CRU? Will they have a positive impact for struggling customers?