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Rate of energy disconnections fell last year

But service providers have been reminded to adhere to communication guidelines when contacting customers in arrears – with some providers being accused of “effectively harassing” bill-payers.

Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

THE RATE OF gas and electricity disconnections fell by almost 10 per cent in the first eight months of last year, indicating that more customers in arrears are successfully arranging special payment agreements with their energy providers.

The latest figures published by the Commission for Energy Regulation show that electricity disconnection rates in the first eight months of 2011 were lower, on average, than the same period in 2010. According to the report, gas disconnections also fell by almost one-third.

Airtricity has the highest rate of disconnections of all suppliers, at approximately 18 disconnections per 10,000 customers, while and Bord Gáis Energy has the lowest disconnection rate, at approximately 3 disconnections per 10,000 customers.

Despite the falling rate in disconnections, service providers have been reminded to adhere to guidelines when communicating with customers in arrears.

“Some service providers are effectively harassing bill-payers who are in arrears, including sending text messages  - a practice that is covered by the current guidelines but which some charitable organisations have stated is pushing some clients over the edge,” said Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central.

Ó Ríordáin said that companies are forbidden from contacting their customers on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays under current guidelines, but claimed there had been “instances of companies breaking this rule” and behaving in an “intimidating and inappropriate manner”. He vowed to contact the CER detailing the alleged breaches of existing codes of practice.
While recognising the onus was on households facing difficulties in paying their utility bills to engage with service providers in order to agree on an affordable payment plan, Ó Ríordáin said that Irish families were living in an era of  huge financial pressure and some were finding it “difficult to cope”.

“Suicide rates are high and must be at the forefront of the consciousness of all in Irish society,” he said. “Inappropriate and unnecessary contact from service providers or financial institutions must also be tackled to ensure that citizens can deal with their financial obligations in a calm and measured fashion, and with a stable frame of mind”.

Read: CER’s latest report on electricity and gas disconnections>

Read: Pre-paid electricity meters rolled out for customers in arrears>

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