The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (or CRU) requires all energy suppliers to make allowances for energy customers who are defined as ‘vulnerable’. In this article we define what exactly a vulnerable customer is and provide other relevant info on the topic.
As the CRU puts it; “customers may find themselves in vulnerable situations at different times. This may result in customers having difficulties when dealing with their suppliers and network operators. These customers are entitled to additional protection.”
So, what does being a ‘vulnerable customer’ actually mean and what do you need to know?
What is a vulnerable customer and do I qualify as one?
The CRU (who are responsible for the protection of all vulnerable energy customers across energy suppliers) state that to qualify as a vulnerable customer, one should meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Customers who are critically dependent on electrically powered equipment, including (but not limited to) life protecting devices, assistive technologies to support independent living and medical equipment.
- Customers who are particularly vulnerable to disconnection during winter months for reasons including advanced age or physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health difficulties.
What protections are in place for vulnerable customers?
Registering as a vulnerable customer with your energy supplier will ensure that a range of measures are put in place to protect you from losing electricity or gas supply. These include measures around communication and disconnection among others.
Each of Ireland’s ten energy suppliers has a code of practice concerning vulnerable customers. The CRU monitors and audits each supplier to make sure that they remain compliant with these codes, ensuring the continued protection of vulnerable customers.
Although codes of practice will vary slightly from supplier to supplier, below is a selection of examples of the types of protection you can expect as a registered vulnerable customer:
- Early communication regarding planned power outages to give customers adequate time to make alternative arrangements.
- Reasonable efforts to make sure that registered elderly customers are not disconnected during the winter months.
- Collaboration with organisations representing customers with special needs, to make sure that they are providing the appropriate services.
- Specially trained staff to implement the code of practice.
What special services are available for vulnerable customers?
A registered vulnerable customer with sight and/or hearing disabilities can avail of specialised communications with their energy supplier including braille bills, talking bills via phone, large print bills or redirection of bills and other communications to a carer.
How do I register as a vulnerable customer?
Though energy suppliers are required to establish, maintain and regularly update a register of vulnerable customers, it is also up to you to let them know if you or a member of your household is a vulnerable customer.
Energy suppliers are required to provide customers with a free and easy way to register, so the process should be as simple as contacting your supplier.
It’s even easier to start the process of registering if you are switching to a new supplier via bonkers.ie. We provide a checkbox on your switching form to let your new supplier know that you would like to be registered as a vulnerable customer. It’s as simple as that.
If you have any questions about vulnerable customers or would like any additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at bonkers.ie. You can reach us by phone at (01) 256 0540 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.