More than one in ten say Covid has reduced ability to pay utility bills

One fifth concerned about impact on usage, study finds

Despite mounting concerns over bills and usage, the numbers switching providers to save money remains very low. Photograph: iStock

Despite mounting concerns over bills and usage, the numbers switching providers to save money remains very low. Photograph: iStock

 

More than one in 10 people say Covid-19 has reduced their capacity to pay their electricity and gas bills while 20 per cent are concerned about the impact lockdowns and working from home have had on their usage, according to a report from the energy regulator.

The research from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) found that 12 per cent of electricity and 15 per cent of gas customers said their ability to pay bills had been hit by Covid-19 while one in five said usage had increased over the last year.

Despite mounting concerns over bills and usage, the numbers switching providers to save money remains very low, the study suggests. All told less than 20 per cent of people switched providers last year despite annual savings of around €500 being on the table.

According to the CRU, an understanding of the available offers makes the utility market more competitive, with more customers saying they found it easy to compare offers from electricity and gas suppliers last year than in 2019.

The percentage who said they had an understanding of how the market worked climbed from 41 per cent in 2019 to 56 per cent in 2020 for electricity and from 57 per cent in 2019 to 63 per cent in 2020 for gas.

Switching

When it comes to switching energy supplier, half of electricity and gas consumers surveyed admitted that they have never switched supplier while among those who had switched, there was a similar level of switching in 2020 as in 2019 across both gas and electricity.

All told 16 per cent of both electricity and gas customers switched last year with savings said to be the main driver.

Among those who switched, the ease of doing it has been gradually improving since 2016 with 97 per cent in electricity and 91 per cent in gas saying it was easy to switch.

CRU Commissioner Aoife MacEvilly said the new research offered “a timely and important look into attitudes and experiences in the domestic and SME electricity and gas markets in Ireland in 2020.”

She noted that switching rates had remained steady and encouraged those who had difficulty paying bills or who had concerns about increased “to see what savings they could make by negotiating with or switching their supplier”.