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CER report: Irish energy consumer attitudes changing

Irish energy customers are looking for more from their gas & electricity suppliers

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has found that domestic gas and electricity customers are growing dissatisfied with Irish energy suppliers.

The report, ‘Findings from 2014 - research on attitudes and experience in the domestic and SME electricity and gas markets in Ireland’, surveyed 1000 gas and 1000 electricity customers and looks at how customers rate the energy market.

Overall satisfaction levels for the electricity market fell to 81%, down from 89% in 2012 while satisfaction in the gas market also dropped – down to 82% from 85% a year previously.

Satisfaction levels with current suppliers for the three major electricity suppliers all fell – with Electric Ireland, SSE Airtricity and Bord Gáis Energy all seeing marginal declines.

It was a similar situation in the gas market, as Electric Ireland, Bord Gáis Energy, SSE Airtricity and Flogas all experienced a decline in overall customer satisfaction levels.

Dual fuel options

The number of customers with dual fuel contracts has remained unchanged from 2013, with 52% of customers choosing one company for their domestic gas and electricity needs.

Of the reasons listed for choosing dual fuel options, 72% of customers said taking advantage of gas and electricity offers allowed them to make a greater saving.

Some 66% of customers also said it was more convenient, while 54% felt that service was improved if one supplier dealt with both their electric and gas needs.

The issue of arrears was also highlighted as a growing concern in the report, although a perception gap exists between customers’ understanding and supplier definitions of arrears.

In terms of paying bills by deadline, 80% of customers said they did this but 14% of electricity and 16% of gas customers say they part-pay but do not consider this as being in arrears.

Customer market awareness

Awareness of other suppliers is used as a marker of competition in the market, with Electric Ireland named by nine in ten electricity customers.

This compares to awareness levels of Bord Gáis Energy and SSE Airtricity which both dropped significantly while PrepayPower, Energia and Pinergy all saw growing recognition.

In the gas market, Bord Gáis Energy was the widely recognised brand while SSE Airtricity, Electric Ireland and Flogas all declined.

The CER reports that only Energia saw an increase in recognition levels, growing by 14% in 2014.

Customer satisfaction

Electricity customers reported that 63% are currently satisfied and only 39% felt that competition has improved the level of service received.

Some 64% of gas customers were satisfied with competition levels and 54% said that competition has boosted the service they received.

Consumers were also questioned on their understanding of energy billing in the CER report, with only 31% of electricity and 8% of gas customers able to provide an estimate of unit costs.