Posted: Wednesday May 04 2011, Blog Tags:
Having more than 1 option in relation to energy supply is a relatively new development in Ireland so it should come as no surprise especially in the current economic conditions that homeowners are so willing to switch in search of a better deal. With proposed price increases on the way the good news for homeowners includes the low numbers who have experienced problems switching () and the introduction by the CER of initiatives such as customer education campaigns, the provision of detailed consumer information, a cost comparison facility, etc to help making the right switching decision easier.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of switching between electricity suppliers anywhere in Europe, according to the latest annual survey of the Commission for Energy Regulation.
Almost one-in-three householders reported having switched supplier at some stage last year in order to avail of price discounts.
On average, between 8,000 and 9,000 customers switched supplier each week in the first three months of this year.
However, the CER has still to publish the first set of results on switching levels since the market was deregulated last month which has enabled ESB Electric Ireland to compete on price for the first time with its competitors, including Airtricity and Bord Gáis.
Deregulation of the market was permitted by the CER after ESB Electric Ireland’s share of the domestic market fell below 60% for the first time.
A CER spokesman said the high switching rate indicated "value for money" was paramount for electricity customers in the current economic climate.
Since 2009, more than 850,000 customers or 40% of the total retail market, have switched supplier at least once.
The overwhelming majority of electricity customers said they found the process of switching account from one supplier to another to be easy.
One third of all customers said they would consider switching again over the coming year. However, 5% reported having to make a complaint about their electricity supplier over the previous 12 months.
Three out of 10 customers also expressed an interest in pre-payment of their electricity bills, with many citing the avoidance of unexpectedly large bills as an important benefit of such a payment method.
Almost half of all customers who are currently in arrears said they would favour the option of pre-paying for electricity usage.
The CER spokesman said the regulator welcomed the sustained positive feedback from domestic customers on the switching experience given the considerable change under which the Irish electricity retail market had undergone in the past two years.
"The CER will continue to monitor the electricity retail market through industry reports and consumer feedback in the annual survey to ensure it is working well and delivering for customers," he said.
One quarter of older customers have criticised electricity suppliers who have directly contacted them either by phone or door-to-door, claiming they did not believe the sales approach with 10% expressing concern they were placed under unreasonable pressure to sign up.
The CER is also set to introduce a range of initiatives to make switching even easier including customer education campaigns, the provision of detailed consumer information and a cost comparison facility.
- Seán McCárthaigh, The Irish Examiner