A pensioner living alone received an electricity bill that was 2,650 per cent higher than the previous invoice, the Dáil has been told.
Independent TD Denis Naughten said the woman's electricity bill rose from €123 to €3,385 because her supplier failed to read her meter for the past 24 months.
According to the invoice, the woman was charged €460.36 based on estimated usage for the billing period of January 1st 2022 until March 1st.
However, the amount payable was reduced to €123.67 due to the woman being in credit, and having that brought over from the previous month.
The next bill she received, covering the billing period of March 1st until March 21st, and which was based on the meter being read, was €3,385.21. The vast majority of the bill, €2970.52, was a result of “charges for this period”.
Speaking about the situation, Mr Naughten said: “To add to her shock, she is being charged all of these arrears at the current electricity rate, compounding the financial hardship she is now facing, while the electricity supplier gains an excessive profit due to the policy of charging this inflated unit rate.”
Mr Naughten criticised the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), stating it seems it is “not too bothered about this exploitation of vulnerable electricity customers”.
“The only obligation they place on electricity suppliers is that they must ‘attempt’ to take a meter reading four times per year,” he said.
“Once they do that by throwing a banal card in the letter box that requires the customer to source their [meter point reference number], the onus is then on the customer, many of them vulnerable customers in old energy inefficient homes, to submit a reading or face astronomical bills.
He added: “This is just not good enough and electricity suppliers and the regulator cannot just wash their hands of responsibility, especially with people struggling to pay for the increasing cost of electricity.”
In response, Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan said electricity price rises are a "real concern" right across this country.
“But that is a shocking case. It is beyond belief that someone could have such an increase in a bill,” he said.
Mr Ryan said the Government published an energy security framework plan two weeks ago which contains a series of immediate emergency actions for the CRU and supply companies to “manage this very difficult situation, so that customers who do get into difficulty for whatever variety of different reasons are not seeing it is impossible, cannot cope, cannot manage”.
“We’re saying to supply companies that they have to engage, make sure they are not disconnecting people and that they are actually managing and helping people through the bills process,” he said.
“That customer needs to contact their supplier, as well as other possible support agencies, to make sure that the situation is resolved and they are not left exposed. The Government has given clear direction and CRU recognises the problem, and is giving clear direction to supply companies about how to manage such absolutely inappropriate situations.”