Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (494)

John Halligan


494. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources following the establishment of the Commission for Energy Regulation, the extent of the authority this body has to direct energy providers to make changes to its processes and its dealings with customers based on its findings; if there is a penalty for non-compliance with the directions of the CER where it has found in favour of a complainant and advised an energy provider to implement its decisions; the number of complaints in relation to Electric Ireland that have been received by the CER since its establishment; his views regarding a case (details supplied) where Electric Ireland executives refused to respond directly to a customer's complaint and further to this declined to implement the findings of the CER following a formal complaint and assessment of Electric Ireland's dealings with a complainant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22591/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The regulation of the electricity and gas market is the responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. I have no function in the matter of customer complaint resolution.

The CER has a statutory responsibility to provide a complaints resolution service to customers with an unresolved dispute with their supplier or network operator. Following investigation the CER has the power to direct suppliers and network operators to award compensation or to resolve the complaint in a set fashion if the complaint is upheld. Under the provisions of SI No. 463 of 2011 energy undertakings are required to comply with any determination made by the CER in the context of dispute resolution.

If a determination by the CER is not implemented within the required period of 14 days, a payment of €30 to the customer may apply. The CER would also consider instructing a supplier to issue a payment of €30 for each billing period after that, depending on the particular circumstances.

According to the CER, there has never been a case when a supplier has refused to implement a determination issued by it, although there have been cases when the determination was not applied within the 14 days. The supplier is obliged under its licence (Condition 15 of the electricity supply licence & Condition 16 of the natural gas supply licence) to comply with laws and directions. Therefore, a refusal to comply with a determination may be considered a breach of the licence.

The Energy Customers Team was established by the CER in 2006 to deal directly with small business and domestic customers who have complaints and the complaint resolution process is set out at the following link: http://www.cer.ie/customer-care/complaints. This also describes how to make contact with the Team.

The Team issues Annual Reports containing data on customer complaints in the energy sector and they are available on the CER website. The Annual Report for 2012 indicates that in that year the Team logged 3,067 contacts with customers, of which 2,234 were related directly to energy suppliers. The highest number of contacts per supplier was Airtricity with 874, followed by Electric Ireland with 647, BGE with 618, Energia with 56 and Flogas with 39 contacts. When the figures are analysed by contacts per 50,000 customers, Airtricity was first with 84.2 contacts per 50,000 customers, Flogas was second with 53 contacts per 50,000 customers, Energia was third with 51.4 contacts per 50,000 customers, BGE was fourth with 40 contacts per 50,000 customers and Electric Ireland was fifth with 21.8 contacts per 50,000 customers.

With regard to the specific case you cite, the CER has ruled in favour of the complainant and has issued a direction to the supplier in question. While there have been delays and the case is ongoing it is my understanding that the supplier in question has proposed to implement a solution for the customer that is in line with the determination of the CER.