People who have been getting estimated bills from their energy suppliers should submit accurate readings immediately or risk being hit by higher charges for gas and electricity used before the latest raft of price hikes take effect starting this weekend.
Suppliers have announced price increases of between 20 and close to 50 per cent with all the increases set to come into effect at points throughout next month with the first of them impacting domestic energy bills from the beginning of October.
This means households could end up ‘back-paying’ a significant amount for their energy at much higher rates unless they submit an up-to-date meter reading.
Customers of SSE Airtricity tried to submit updated readings on the site on Friday were left frustrated as a result of what the company said were “technical issues” with the difficulties prompting calls for a delay in a scheduled price increase this weekend.
Both ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland attempt to read households’ electricity and gas meters once every few months to gauge how much energy has been used. But between readings, or if they can’t access the meter, an estimate is used.
A report last year from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities showed that 52 per cent of electricity customers and 46 per cent of gas customers did not submit a meter reading of their own over the previous 12 months.
Customers of Electric Ireland and Bord Gáis Energy are particularly bad at supplying readings, with closer to 60 per cent of these customers not doing so, according to the survey.
Estimates are not always accurate and sometimes suppliers can underestimate usage.
When this happens customers will be billed for the units used at a later date, once an actual reading has been carried out and can be charged at the most up-to-date price.
“Unless you’re providing a regular meter reading to your energy supplier, some of your gas and electricity bills will be based on an estimate of your usage, which may or may not be very accurate,” said Daragh Cassidy of price switching site Bonkers.ie.
“The problem in a time of rising prices is that the bill for the energy you owe will be based on today’s price. It won’t be based on the price of your gas and electricity at the time it was actually consumed and when prices may have been far lower.”
He said he would “really encourage all households to submit a reading to their supplier as soon as possible. It can usually be done online or through an app. Or as a last resort, you can call your supplier and provide the reading over the phone.”
Customers with a smart electricity meter which has been activated don’t need to worry about submitting an electricity reading as the meters provide almost real-time updates on usage to suppliers.
Customers of SSE Airtricity who attempted to submit updated metre readings on Friday were not able to do so as a result of what the company said was “technical issues”.
In a statement posted on social media platforms on Friday afternoon the company said it was “currently experiencing technical issues which have impacted our online services for customers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We are working hard to resolve this and apologise for any inconvenience to our customers.”
In a statement supplied to The Irish Times, the company said the “outage was reported late on Friday morning” and it was working to resolve the issue. It prompted calls for a delay in the price increase due to be rolled out by the company on October 1st.
Fianna Fáil Dublin Spokesperson Cormac Devlin TD said the company’s customers had been prevented from submitting meter readings “and now risk being overcharged by the utility.”
In a follow-up statement, SSE Airtricity said its customers could submit a meter reading to firstname.lastname@example.org and all reads received by noon October 2nd would be honoured at the pre-price change rate.