Pricewatch reader queries: The large charge for ESB reconnection and some good news stories

It’s the new year, so we have some optimistic stories for you. Don’t get too used to it

Recently Elaine Mc Garry opened a new business in Sligo. It is a blow-dry bar, "or hairdresser to most men". The new business is in an existing unit that had electricity, as it had previously been a wine shop, computer shop and sandwich shop. "When I took over the lease, the unit had not been in use for over two years," she writes. "The ESB insisted that we be treated as a new commercial connection and charged us €1,349."

The company insisted that her business be treated the same as if she had built a new retail unit in the middle of a field and had to have the ESB installed from scratch.

“This unit had already had the ESB installed, only that the unit was not used for over two years,” she writes. “As you know, there is no alternative provider to ESB.”

After she went through the process of applying for a new connection, “the engineer walked through the unit and took less than three minutes to switch on the ESB, as the infrastructure was all there, just to issue a new account number (MPRN number) and switch it on. I am frustrated, as this huge chunk of money out of our start-up budget has really set us back. Is there anything that we can do?”

We contacted the company and received the following statement: “When a connection point is disconnected from the electricity network, use of system charges cease to be paid with respect to that connection point.

“If it is reconnected within two years, the customer is charged a minimal cost, for a straightforward reconnection. Most premises are reconnected within a two-year period.

“If a premises is left vacant, there could be substantial work required to reconnect it, depending on the requirements of the new occupant.

“Rather than carry out individual investigations, the Commission for Energy Regulation agreed a standard connection charge for premises reconnected after a two-year period. This is seen as more predictable and transparent, and, from an overall perspective, reflects the costs associated with carrying a dormant connection for an inactive period of two years plus – ie upgrading the network to re-instate the capacity and maintain the capacity over the lifetime of the connection.

“The standard charges for ESB Networks services are approved every five years by CER under its price review function. ESB Networks has no discretion to treat customers differently.”

Good news for young couple renting

A rare good news story. A reader called Johnny said his lease finished in November, and, “as our landlords didn’t put it up last year as expected, I was sure it was definitely going up this year. But lo and behold it wasn’t increased. Myself and my wife are delighted.

“We’re in that bracket of a young married couple paying rent in Dublin while trying to save the 10 per cent [deposit] for a mortgage so we really appreciated it not being increased. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the mortgage situation, but there are good landlords out there who reward good tenants.”

‘The care I got at the Mater was outstanding’

Last August bank holiday weekend, a reader called Valerie attended a follow-up appointment in the eye clinic of the Mater hospital. "On being examined, it was discovered that my retina had detached and Dr Sonia Manning told me that I needed emergency surgery. Although I had realised there was a problem with my vision, I was not expecting such drastic news and was not prepared to hear that I was to be admitted immediately," she writes.

“I have no family except for two much-loved elderly dogs, and I was extremely concerned at not being able to go home and attend to them. The two close friends I tried to phone were not immediately contactable, and, on seeing my distress, Dr Manning approached one of the staff in the eye clinic who lived in my area and had dogs herself. That staff member offered to feed and walk my dogs until my friends could take over,” writes Valerie.

“I can’t overemphasise how kind and concerned Dr Manning was, despite a long and taxing day in a public casualty clinic full to capacity,” she continues. “Unused as I am to hospital stays, I was at pains to repeat that I did not have private health insurance but was reassured by staff that all was in order. . . A nurse, on discovering that I had been in eye casualty since lunchtime, brought me chicken, salad, fresh bread and butter and hot tea.”

Then the consultant, Paul Connell, arrived. "He was gentle and courteous and explained everything with great patience and clarity.

“I had surgery the following morning, and, besides undoubtedly saving my sight (my retina was torn in three places), he was kindness itself and returned again on the Sunday to make sure all was well. On seeing him over two months later for an assessment, he inquired after my dogs, despite having seen heaven only knows how many patients in the meantime.

“I was in the Mater for two nights as a public patient, and the care I got was outstanding. The HSE comes in for a lot of criticism, but it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of staff carry out their duties diligently and with respect and compassion. Two dogs and their owner will vouch for that.”