One-third of complaints against energy suppliers upheld

Regulator dealt with 186 complex grievances last year

Almost a third of customer complaints against energy suppliers in the State were upheld by the regulator last year, new figures show.

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which oversees the energy companies and Irish Water, said 2021 had been “a particularly challenging year for many customers” due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and, during the latter part of 2021, global increases in energy costs.

It had dealt with 6,6087 cases during the year, up 51 per cent on the previous year. However, complex complaints – ones requiring full CRU investigation – accounted for just 3 per cent of the total and were up 10 per cent on the previous year.

The agency closed 186 complex complaints against energy providers last year, with 32 per cent upheld in favour of the customer.

Billing continued to be the cause of most complaints, with inaccurate bills, catch-up bills, charges and tariffs generating 50 per cent of complaints. Account issues, customer service levels, and metering problems were also sources of complaint. Five per cent of complaints related to marketing and sign-up problems, for example misleading information.

Complaints relating to the nine largest energy suppliers were roughly in line with their market share, with the exceptions of Electric Ireland – which has 43 per cent market share but accounted for just 19 per cent of complaints – and Bord Gáis Energy whose share of complaints (28 per cent) was notably ahead of its 21 per cent market share.

The utilities regulator said both SSE Airtricity and Energia had seen the gap between complaints about their service and their market share fall last year.

Irish Water

In relation to Irish Water, the CRU investigated and closed 18 complex complaints, 44 per cent of which were upheld in favour of the customer.

Among the main issues were account problems and billing complaints, primarily from non-domestic customers.

In total, the CRU opened 221 investigations against energy companies and Irish Water in 2021, a 10 per cent rise on 2020.

“There was a 51 per cent increase in contacts to the CRU last year, which is likely to have been driven by increased awareness of our customer protection role as customers deal with the challenge of increased energy costs and see the impact on their bills,” said CRU chairwoman Aoife MacEvilly. “Billing and account issues continue to be the main driver of complaints. We would call on any customer with a complaint to raise this with their energy supplier or Irish Water, and if they are not satisfied with the outcome, contact the CRU customer care team.”

The average time taken to resolve complaints was 67 days in 2021, down from 71 days in 2020.