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Gas & Electricity

New regulator rules will be a game-changer for energy customers

Mark Whelan

Mark Whelan

Former Head of Communications & Events

Ireland's energy suppliers will soon have to display estimated annual bills on their ads, give customers 30 days' notice before discounts expire and prompt inactive customers to consider switching.

Back in October, the CER discovered that the number of people switching gas and electricity suppliers has been fairly stagnant over the past few years. In 2015, 16% of gas customers switched to a better deal and 13.5% of electricity customers did likewise.

These rates are actually among the highest in the EU, but the CER wants them to be higher. So, they've introduced a wide range of new rules to help customers keep up to date with the latest deals, to better understand their bills and to ultimately get on the best price plan available to them.

30 days' notice of discount expiry

Most gas and electricity price discounts expire after 12 months, after which customers are quietly bumped on to expensive standard rates. This leaves many households paying much more than they have to without even realising it.

Well, thanks to the CER's new rules, suppliers will soon be obliged to write to customers 30 days before their discounts are set to expire to give them a chance to shop around for a better deal.

In fact, suppliers will have to include the following two lines of text when notifying their customers:

  • ‘Is this the right tariff for you? You can shop around for a better deal.’
  • There are no penalties for switching when your contract expires.’

Suppliers will also have to reference the section on the CER's website where customers can find out about accredited price comparison sites, such as bonkers.ie.

As you probably know by now, you can compare all gas and electricity suppliers and switch online in 7 minutes on bonkers.ie. Once you get your first letter of notice, be sure to pay us a visit!

Annual prompts

A recent CER survey found that nearly 60% of energy customers in Ireland are unaware of the special offers and discounts available to them. And there are many households out there that have never switched.

To combat this, the CER is requiring all gas and electricity suppliers to write to customers who haven’t switched in three years or more to remind them that there may be better deals out there and that they should consider shopping around.

If a prompt is issued and the customer continues to remain on their existing price plan, the prompt will be issued every year until that customer has switched suppliers or price plans.

Suppliers will have to provide this notice either in a prominent position on customers' bills or in a separate written communication.

If you’re in this category, don’t wait for your letter, switch to a cheaper deal now! You’ll almost certainly save a bundle.

Annual bill estimates

Energy prices can be pretty confusing, can't they? Some suppliers have very low unit rates, but high standing charges, while others have high unit rates, but big discounts.

Basically, it can be really tough to figure out exactly how much you’re actually going to end up paying over the course of a year.

To fix this, under the new CER rules, energy suppliers will soon have to provide an easy-to-understand estimated annual bill on their marketing and advertising materials, including those on radio and television.

The font of the estimated annual bill figure will have to be at least as big as the second largest font in the main body of the ad or marketing asset.

This should make it much easier for households to make the right decision with confidence.

When will the changes be in place?

Ireland's energy suppliers have six months to implement the majority of these changes, so you can expect to be getting a prompt to shop around or a notification that your discount is about to expire from mid-October this year.

You'll also see estimated annual bills on some ads from October, but suppliers have a year to include this figure in their radio and TV ads.

Could these changes bring about a switching frenzy?

The new CER rules will be a major game-changer for Ireland's energy customers, the majority of which are still paying more than they have to for gas and electricity.

The introduction of 30 days' written notice will help prevent customers unknowingly default to an expensive standard rate, the annual prompt will help others take advantage of the most competitive offers out there and the estimated annual bill will help everyone better understand whether or not a particular supplier is the one for them.

Ultimately, the CER's changes are likely to make it easier for customers to save money. And that is something we fully welcome here at bonkers.ie.

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