Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ceisteanna (267)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

267. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the action he is taking to address the problem of higher utility charges for persons with pre-pay meters and the lack of competition for this market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5129/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Electricity and gas markets in Ireland are commercial and liberalised, and operate within national and European regulatory regimes, supported by legislation. Government has no statutory function in the regulation of energy markets or the setting of gas or electricity prices. The position of successive Governments has been that competitive energy markets result in greater choice for consumers and businesses, in terms of suppliers, products and prices. Competition drives down consumer prices. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is solely a matter for the independent regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which was assigned responsibility for the regulation of the Irish electricity market following the enactment of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 and subsequent legislation. The CRU licences the supply of electricity under section 14 (1) of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999, and it has licensed a number of suppliers, which offer a range of electricity services, including, in the case of several firms, prepay meters.

The CRU ceased regulating electricity retail prices in April 2011 and gas prices in 2014, and prices are set on a commercial and operational basis by all suppliers, including those providing prepay meters.  The CRU monitors retail energy markets to ensure that competition continues to develop. It also oversees non-price aspects of competition and has taken steps to facilitate market access for new supplier firm entrants and to increase transparency and consumer engagement in retail markets. The CRU is accountable for the performance of its functions, including the monitoring of retail market competition, to a committee of the Oireachtas, and not to Government.