Information for customers in financial difficulty with their energy bills


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1. Dealing with arrears

What should I do?

Contact your supplier as soon as possible: Help is available. If you should, at any time, experience difficulties in meeting your energy bills we would encourage you to contact your supplier as soon as possible. The sooner a concern is raised, the sooner the supplier can offer assistance to you and allow you to manage your bills in a way that suits you better. If you should wish a third party such as the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) or a recognised charity to talk to the supplier on your behalf, the supplier will facilitate this.

How will your supplier help you?

When you contact a supplier, they will treat you courteously and discretely. They will determine the best way to assist you in managing your bills; taking your specific circumstances into account. For example, they may offer you a payment plan.

Payment plans

It may be difficult to pay off arrears in one go. Payment plans offer an alternative. Arrears can be paid off over time; through regular smaller payments. Suppliers are required to offer you a payment plan where you are genuinely struggling to pay your bill. When agreeing to a payment plan the supplier must take your ability to pay into account and confirm with you that the payment plan is manageable. You should not agree to any plan that you believe is not manageable. If you should require assistance to determine how much you can afford, budgeting tools are available, for example from the National Consumer Agency and MABS.

If a payment plan, you agreed to, does turn out to be unmanageable, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible to tell them this. They may offer you a more manageable payment plan. Where a payment plan has not been helpful, you may be offered a Pay As You Go meter.

Pay As You Go meters

Where appropriate, suppliers will offer you a Pay As You Go meter, free of charge. A PAYG meter replaces the old meter. Credit is purchased from a local shop via payzone (or similar) and topped up using a digit code – very similar to topping up a mobile phone. Arrears on your utility bill are recouped up to a maximum of 25% of each top up e.g. €2.50 out of €10 credit and the remaining credit is for supply.

Why is this of benefit to me if I'm in energy arrears?

PAYG metering allows you to budget for your energy use and take control of a significant part of the household running costs. Arrears are recouped at a manageable cost without the need for lump sum payments.

Will PAYG meters work for everyone?

PAYG meters will not be practicable or appropriate in all instances. In the first instance you may be offered a payment plan by your supplier. Energy providers have a responsibility to offer manageable payment plans. PAYG meters may not be available in the following instances:

  • Apartment blocks where connections between the meter and pinpad cannot be made;
  • Homes using dual tariff meters for nightsaver storage heaters;
  • Where a landlord refuses installation;
  • People in need of constant supply for medical reasons are specifically disallowed.

PAYG meters may also not be appropriate for older people who may find it difficult to purchase credit.

Further Information on PAYG meters

Further information can be obtained from the CER website via the link below. The information on dealing with arrears is also being published on the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection website.

http://www.energycustomers.ie/faqs/index.aspx (see "What Should I do if I have difficulties meeting my energy bills?")

2. Household Budget Scheme

The Household Budget Scheme is a scheme that helps those getting certain social welfare payments to spread the cost of some household bills over the year. Under the scheme, a fixed amount is deducted from your social welfare payment each week. The scheme is operated by An Post and your payment must be paid through their local post office. The Household Budget Scheme is free of charge.

To qualify for the Household Budget Scheme you must be receipt of one of the following Social Welfare payments:

  • Back to Work Allowance
  • Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
  • Disability Allowance
  • Blind Pension
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Carer's Benefit
  • Farm Assist
  • Invalidity Pension
  • Jobseeker's Benefit
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • State Pension (Contributory)
  • State Pension (Non–Contributory)
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Pre-Retirement Allowance
  • Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension
  • Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non–Contributory) Pension
  • Back to Education Allowance
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance (basic payment)

There are a limited number of bills a person can pay using the Household Budget Scheme at present as follows:

  • Local Authority / Housing Body Payments
  • Electric Ireland
  • Bord Gáis Energy
  • eircom
  • Airtricity

Further information and the application form are available from An Post website:
http://www.anpost.ie/AnPost/MainContent/Personal+Customers/Social+Welfare/Household+Budget+Form.htm

3. Better Energy and Warmer Homes Schemes

Being aware of how you use energy in your home can be the first step to understanding your bills. The more energy efficient you are, the less energy you will use and be billed for. There are a number of websites which can help you with tips on how to be more efficient, grants which are available to upgrade your home and calculators which show how much energy your appliances use.

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) was set up by the government in 2002 as Ireland's national energy agency. They have a role to promote energy efficiency. They provide general information on energy efficiency as well as administering a number of government funded grant schemes. More information can be found on their website www.seai.ie

What is the Warmer Homes Scheme?

Better Energy Warmer Homes funds energy upgrades in energy poor homes to make them more comfortable, healthier and cheaper to run.

The upgrades are free to eligible homes and include the following:

  • Attic insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Draught proofing
  • Lagging jackets
  • Low energy light bulbs
  • Energy advice

This scheme is available to owner occupied non-Local Authority homes which were constructed before 2006. The owner must be in receipt of one of the following:

  • Fuel Allowance
  • Job Seekers Allowance for over six months and with children under 7 years of age
  • Family Income Supplement

See http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Warmer_Homes_Scheme/ for more information.

How do I apply to the Warmer Homes Scheme?

If you are eligible, or know someone who could be eligible, contact the helpdesk on 1800 250 204 or email warmerhomes@seai.ie. A survey will be carried out to determine what works are most appropriate for the property.

How are the services provided?

The services are provided by a panel of SEAI appointed non-profit community based organisations (CBOs) and a panel of SEAI appointed private contractors. CBO or Contractor installers are assigned to a household depending on their geographic location. CBOs and contractors deliver the Warmer Homes Schemes to the highest quality assurance standards. Inspections are carried out on a sample of homes completed to ensure the standards are maintained.

I don't think I'm eligible as I don't have the right social welfare payment?

Separate from the Warmer Homes Scheme there is the Better Energy Homes scheme which provides grants to homeowners who invest in energy efficiency improvements in one or more of the following areas: Roof Insulation, Wall Insulation, Installation of a High Efficiency (> 90%) Gas or Oil fired Boiler, Heating Control Upgrades and Solar panels. The scheme is not free and you will have to pay for part of the work. For further information on this scheme visit http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_energy_homes/ or contact:

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland,
P.O. Box 119,
Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry.
Ph: 1850 927000
Email: info@betterenergyhomes.ie

Last modified:17/01/2014