Utility Reconnection Fees Could Be Halved

The Commission for Energy Regulation has revealed discussions are taking place that may lead to the halving of gas and electricity reconnection fees.

The number of disconnections has been on the rise ever since the full brutality of the recession hit homeowners, leaving many struggling with their utility bills.

The plan would mean that instead of consumers paying the full cost of reconnection, energy suppliers such as the ESB and Bord Gáis would pay half, cutting €100 off the cost.

Figures show that every month more than 2,000 electricity customers are being disconnected, while 300 gas meters are being locked.

Labour Party Spokesperson on Energy Liz McManus said that she had made a submission to the Commission in relation to its review and highlighted the fact that utility disconnections is an urgent matter affecting thousands of households across the country.

Ms McManus said that recent figures showed gas customers who have fallen into arrears are entering payments plans every five minutes, with 20 gas disconnections a day and approximately 90,000 customers experiencing debt difficulties

The labour spokeswoman said electricity disconnections have increased to an "alarming" level of approx 2,500 every month.

"While the CER proposal to reduce disconnection and reconnection fees is welcome it does not go far enough. For anyone who cannot afford to pay their utility bills and risks disconnection these fees simply add a further burden on them."

TD McManus said there is a changing demographic of those experiencing fuel poverty with approximately 60% of gas disconnections taking place in owner occupied housing. "The changing demographic of those in serious trouble in paying their bills is proof of how widespread this problem has become. These are very worrying figures which are likely to get worse as the cold winter months approach."

In her statement this morning, Ms McManus said the Labour Party believes that the CER should take a number of steps, including implementing a zero disconnection policy through the use of pre-payment meters, developing a fuel poverty strategy and looking into free electricity units.

"It is high time for an informed response on the crisis of fuel poverty - the inability to keep the lights on, or your house warm. It is time to seriously look at the solutions to this public policy issue and I welcome this opportunity to make a submission to the CER," the Labour spokeswoman said.


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