Rip-off ESB slaps charge on low users
The 'low user standing charge' will hit those who use an average of two units or less per day -- in many cases society's most vulnerable.
Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association said that this was an unnecessary fee for people who are doing their level best to cut down on costs.
"It is just another means of making money for the ESB by doing virtually nothing," he said.
"The company has an extraordinary number of defaulters and it appears as if they are bringing it in just because they can."
Under the new penalty, those who have not used enough electricity will be charged an additional 15.5c per day. This adds up to an extra €9.45 per two-monthly bill or €56.70 a year.
A representative for ESB, now known as Electric Ireland, said that the charge would only apply to electricity accounts and not gas.
And they said it was specifically aimed at vacant dwellings or holiday homes that are not lived in for most of the year.
Two units (2 kWhs) is the equivalent of a small fridge-freezer on for the entire day, cooking on a small plate for 20 minutes or a cycle on a washing machine.
Electric Ireland says it has incurred losses on dwellings with "very low consumption" of electricity.
The charge is to offset charges incurred by the firm which include sending out bills, meter readings and customer service.
A total of 1.3m people have domestic accounts with Electric Ireland -- using 14 units per day on average.
Electric Ireland pointed out that an individual could not necessarily save money by having their dwelling disconnected while vacant as the charge for disconnection and reconnection amounts to €70.
It said it had to balance the books after writing off €15m in bills for householders that it was unable to recover last year.
Alternative energy providers Airtricity and Bord Gais confirmed that there were no plans to introduce a low-user standing charge for energy.
Airtricity's daily standing charge is now 36.3c per day and Bord Gais's is 32c per day compared to 48.3c per day for Electric Ireland.