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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# pay as you go
PBP-Solidarity criticise Government over pay-as-you-go disconnection uncertainty
Mick Barry TD suggested scrapping the €199 charge to switch from pay-as-you-go to bill pay.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 4th 2022, 3:36 PM

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT – Solidarity have criticised the Taoiseach for saying pay-as-you-go utility customers who are struggling to top up can access help at social welfare offices.

It comes as concerns have been raised about pay-as-you-go customers being excluded from the extended electricity and gas disconnection moratorium, which was announced by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) in August.

Over the weekend, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that pay-as-you-go customers would not be disconnected if they are unable to top up their meters, but said that they could access supports at their local social welfare offices.

“That [social welfare] office is responding significantly and we will keep that under review,” said Martin, speaking to RTÉ.

“We do not want to see people in difficulty with their bills, we want people to be warm. Anything we have to do in terms of making it more more streamlined for people to access supports in that scenario we will do.”

Solidarity TD, Mick Barry, labelled the Taoiseach’s comments as “unjust” and “unworkable”.

He said that people will face difficulty accessing the social welfare offices, adding that that people would be “queuing out the door in all kinds of weather this winter”.

Barry said that there were other options available to the Government to solve the issues, including scrapping the €199 charge to swap from a pay-as-you-go meter to bill pay.

He said that currently, pay-as-you-go customers cannot be disconnected at the weekend or on a bank holiday and called for this to be extended to every day of the week.

“You simply extend the number of days that you cannot be disconnected. Any day of the week with a ‘Y’ in it, you cannot be disconnected between here and the end of winter,” said Barry.

In a statement, the CRU said that current pay-as-you-go metering systems cannot identify the reasons why meters have not been topped up.

“The metering systems cannot provide the granularity of data required to identify the reasons for certain meters not being topped up or the cohort of customers,” said the CRU.

“The CRU has made the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications aware of the limitations of the metering systems in this regard.”

It’s understood that there is a difference between a standard disconnection for non-payment of bill pay utilities and so-called ‘self-disconnection’, which are due to customers not topping up their meters.

Electric Ireland

The comments come as Electric Ireland appear before an Oireachtas committee on energy charges.

Electric Ireland has 26,000 pay-as-you-go customers on its books.

Pat Fenlon of Electric Ireland said there are two types of pay-as-you-go customers, those who choose the option “for lifestyle reasons” and those who avail of it “because it’s probably in their best interest in terms of managing how they can pay their bills”.

In many of those cases, Fenlon said that decision is made in consultation with Vincent DePaul or the Money Advice Bureau (MABs)

“We’d work with them to install [the meter] if that’s deemed the best option for for that customer,” he said, adding that there are additional costs associated with a pay-as-you-go meter. 

He said Electric Ireland offers pay-as-you-go customers the same standard, with 5% discount that a direct debit customer would get.

“So we try and look after those customers as best we can”, he said.

Fenlon said Electric Ireland consistently has one of the lowest rates of disconnection, stating that it is only a last resort.

Sinn Féin TD Darren O’Rourke said Electric Ireland makes up more than half the disconnections made so far this year. Of the 700 disconnections in the market, 400 were Electric Ireland customers, acknowledges Fenlon who said they operate more than half the overall market.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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