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Junior minister tells people to tackle high cost of living by switching suppliers

“It takes effort to shop and switch, and if people make an effort they can save a lot of money,” Seán Fleming told RTÉ’s Drivetime.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Feb 2022

A MINISTER OF State has advised citizens to switch suppliers to help deal with the rising cost of living and climbing energy prices, in response to claims that the Government has been slow to react to the cost of living issue.

When asked whether that advice was out of touch, or suitable to welfare recipients, Minister of State at the Department of Finance Seán Fleming told RTÉ’s Drivetime  said advising people to switch suppliers applies “to everybody on every income level”.

The Government is to announce a package of measures this week to tackle with the cost of living – particularly focusing in on rising fuel costs and energy bills.

A one-off €100 electricity credit was approved by Cabinet on 14 December – it will be given through ESB networks to energy suppliers, who will then pass on the discount to customers.

In response to the assertion that the Government is too slow to act in response to the rising cost of living, Fleming said that the payment is aimed at March energy bills, specifically.

The Fianna Fáil TD then said:

“The main advice I would like your listeners to hear today, and it’s so simple people will get bored hearing it, is switch everything.

Switch your electricity supplier and you’ll get a reduced [price], switch your gas supplier if you’re on gas, switch your home heating oil, switch the shop or the supermarket you do your weekly shop in and you might find its €20 or €30 different in another place. Switch your insurance company, switch your bank and your mortgage interest rates.
All of that will save you hundreds of euros per year. It takes effort to shop and switch, and if people make an effort they can save a lot of money. And people will tell you, they’ve changed insurance companies they’ve changed the supermarket they go to, they’ve changed their electricity supplier.
So rather than just complaining on what the Government can do for me, you can actually have a serious impact on your own finance, but it involves people having to do some work themselves.

When asked to clarify whether he was telling members of the public to stop complaining about the rising cost of living, Fleming said that he was speaking about opposition TDs.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has called the comments “insulting” and “out of touch”, while Labour’s finance spokesperson Ged Nash said that Fianna Fáil voters will be “shopping around for better value at the next election”.

Fleming said that there is evidence that shopping around does work, adding that he shops around for car and health insurance himself.

“If you stay doing the same thing at the same prices you’ll end up paying more, if you move around you can get better prices, and that’s in our own hands.” 

What will be in the measures announced this week

The Government is considering a number of policy measures to help with rising fuel and energy costs in particular – extending the Fuel Allowance to April and a reduction in motor tax to ease financial pressure on drivers are among those measures. 

The Taoiseach said today that changes to taxation or to social welfare rates are not likely, with the focus instead being placed on energy costs and fees charged for State services in the areas of health, transport and education.

Fleming said that there won’t be “a mini Budget”, and the measures that will be taken will be “once-off” so that they can come through to people as quickly as possible.

He also said that Vat reductions, as suggested by opposition TDs, would be a more permanent measure and wouldn’t be suited to what is expected to be short-term inflation brought on by the pandemic, that will last for “a number of months, but not a number of years”. 

In an effort to combat high energy prices in the longer term, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan is to announce grants of up to €25,000 to deep retrofit houses, covering between 45% and 51% of the cost of bringing older homes up to a B2 energy rating.

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