The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is encouraging consumers to be aware of their rights and remain informed when it comes to dealing with their utility suppliers as it published its 2019 Customer Care Team Annual Report.
The CRU’s Customer Care Team provides an independent complaints resolution service for customers who have an unresolved dispute with their energy supplier, network operator or Irish Water.
Billing issues (66%) and account problems (19%), year on year, continue to produce the majority of customer complaints for energy customers and the CRU stresses the importance for customers in carefully reading and reviewing their bills.
While the CRU encourages all customers to shop around or negotiate with their current supplier to make sure they are on the lowest tariff, we also encourage customers to familiarise themselves with the terms and conditions of any offer. Customers should check for early terminations fees and other conditions in their contracts, as this has been a source of many of the complaints.
The CRU monitors the number of complaints and contacts concerning energy suppliers and network operators and will take action if the performance of a supplier or network operator continually falls below the required standards.
The CRU consumer focused ‘SwitchOn’, campaign encourages consumers to be aware of their rights as energy and water consumers and highlighted the free complaints resolution service provided by the CRU Customer Care Team.
If customers complain to their supplier or network operator and are not happy with the outcome, they can log a formal complaint with the CRU. The CRU will investigate the matter and issue a decision that is legally binding on the energy company.
In 2019, the CRU investigated 282 complex energy complaints, with 34% of these upheld in favour of the customer.
One complaint related to a budget payment plan. In this case, the budget plan set amount was not enough to cover monthly usage and the consumer ended up with a debt of €700.
The customer complained to the supplier but was unhappy about the outcome and logged a complaint with the CRU. After an investigation, CRU directed the supplier to award the customer €330 in Charter Payments for its many customer service failings and for failing to manage the budget plan effectively. The supplier also agreed as a goodwill gesture to write off the balance of €360 owing on the customer’s account.
Complex Complaints (Supplier breakdown)
In terms of the level of complaints by supplier, Electric Ireland, which holds the largest combined market share of almost 44% had the largest share of upheld complex complaints of 39%. The second largest supplier BGE had a combined market share of 22% in 2019 and accounted for exactly 22% of all upheld complaints against energy suppliers. SSE Airtricity had 12% of the market share and contributed only 3% of upheld complex complaints.
Flogas had a relatively high number of upheld complex complaints relative to its market share. In 2019 they had a share of 1% of the gas market but accounted for 9% of complex complaints upheld by the CRU.
The CRU received 295 customer contacts in relation to Irish Water in 2019. The majority of contacts were in relation to billing and account problems. Customers also noted that Irish Water was failing to respond to their queries in a timely manner and/or not escalating their complaints.
There were 34 complex complaints received, an increase of 62% on 2018. Billing and Account problems accounted for the majority of Irish Water complaints; primarily from non-domestic customers. Charges, such as connection charges drove 25% of complaints, while customer service accounted for 22% of complaints.
Commenting on the report, CRU Chairperson Aoife MacEvilly, said: “Irish Water, energy suppliers and network operators have a responsibility under their codes of practice and customer charters to maintain a minimum level of customer service. By registering their complaints with the CRU, customers can be assured that they will receive a fair and independent decision.”
The full Customer Care Annual Report 2019 and infographic can be viewed here
Energy or water customers who have an unresolved complaint with their service provider are encouraged to contact the CRU Customer Care Team by visiting the website, www.cru.ie , calling 1890 404 404 (Lo-Call) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org