New CER rules will benefit all energy customers

These measures are intended to motivate customers to engage with the energy market, and to make it easier to compare energy offers.

Maeve McLaughlin
by Maeve McLaughlin on 1st November, 2016

Recently, the CER released a decision paper on the review of the Suppliers Handbook.

This Handbook contains requirements that represent the minimum levels of service that energy suppliers are required to stick to in their dealings with customers.

And the review focussed on amendments to increase consumer protections, make it easier to compare energy offers and motivate customers to engage in the market.

Some decisions have already been taken, while others require further consultation and won’t be confirmed until early next year, but they’re all really good news for consumers.

We’ve already brought you some information on the changes to the Doorstep Selling checklist, but what other things can you expect to see coming down the line?

Making it easier to compare gas and electricity offers

The CER has proposed bringing in the Estimated Annual Bill as one of the pieces of information that suppliers are required to include on all marketing and advertising material.

It is envisaged that this would be a ‘simple and consistent indicator’ to help customers to compare and understand energy offers.

We don’t know yet what the method for calculation of this figure will be, as this is still subject to further consultation - but it does seem like a positive move and should help everyone to be a lot clearer on the differences between tariffs from various providers.

If you can’t wait until this introduced to switch, our gas and electricity comparison tool can help you to compare offers and see how much you can save right now.

Notice periods

There will now be a requirement on suppliers to send customers a written notification 30 days before their fixed term contract expires.

Again, the content of this notice is not yet known, but Switcher.ie has previously highlighted how well these notices work to encourage people to shop around for a better deal in the insurance market, so hopefully they will have the same impact on energy customers.

In addition to this, every year suppliers will have to issue a notice to customers who have been on the same tariff or a standard tariff for at least 3 years. Again, this should help to remind customers that they should review their options and switch to save money.

Strengthened protections for vulnerable customers

The CER reviewed the requirements included in the Code of Practice for Vulnerable Customers, as well as findings of an audit of compliance with this code.

Following this, the CER is now proposing the introduction of minimum requirements for how suppliers identify vulnerable customers at sign up stage. It is also proposing that suppliers should reference the Code of Practice on Vulnerable Customers on or with each energy bill.

There will also be a number of measures introduced to increase the protection for vulnerable customers who wish to sign up to a prepay plan.

Regulations on billing

The CER has stated that suppliers must provide a choice of billing format to customers, and that this has to include paper billing. Suppliers also have to allow a choice of payment methods, and these choices must include cash payment.

There has also been a decision made that a supplier can’t keep a customer’s account open in circumstances where they’ve made contact to close their account but can’t provide a meter reading.

Switching supplier or closing your account

Earlier this year, we highlighted the some issues around early exit fees.

So it’s great to see that the CER has highlighted that, if suppliers choose to apply penalties for breach of contract (such as early termination fees), they must ensure that they are ‘not disproportionate and unduly onerous’.

Good news for energy customers

We’ve taken some time to review all of the new proposals, and it’s fair to say they represent really good news for energy customers.

Only 15% of us switched gas and electricity last year but with these new regulations, we should see an increase in the number of energy customers availing of cheaper deals.

There are savings of up to €387 to be made by switching from standard tariffs to the cheapest deals on the market, so there’s no doubt that more switching can only be a good thing!

Switch energy supplier and save today