Tag Archives | Electricity Supply Board (ESB)

Value for Money complaints

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Value for Money complaints

Historically, we Irish haven’t been all that keen on complaining. We normally wouldn’t like to draw attention to ourselves. For that reason, if we get poor service or a dodgy meal in a restaurant for example, we’re more likely to keep quiet rather than make our feelings known.

But I think that’s changing. More and more people are following up on dodgy quality products, bad service, and poor value for money. With money getting tighter and tighter these days, we’re starting to realise that if we don’t let business know that there’s a problem that we’ll end up wasting our hard earned cash.

Just in the last week, a large number of people sent in complaints to restaurants, garages, hotels, and shops and included ValueIreland.com on their complaint. As well allowing me share these complaints with you, it also puts a little extra pressure on the business through knowing that the complaint will be made public.

But there are a few things that people should always be doing when making their complaints to make sure they’re effective. In fact, if done properly, you can either save your money, or possibly even make some money.

Rules of Complaining

There are a couple of key rules you should follow when making a complaint that will help you be successful.

As soon as you have a problem, make your complaint. If you can, make your complaint in person straight away. It is also important that you complain in writing also – sent by registered post to make sure the business can’t deny receiving the complaint.

It is essential that you’re clear in what you’re complaining about. Provide as much detail as you can about what went wrong, when it happens and who was involved. Don’t be shy to ask for names of staff for example.

And finally, when you make your complaint, make sure that you explain what you want the business to do in order to make everything right for you.

In explaining to a business how they can fix things that you’ll be able to either save your money, or potentially make something for the future. If you’ve explained your problem clearly, genuinely and politely, and the business wants to keep your business, then they should be open to doing something to keep you happy.

Wherever you have a problem with a company you should complain to them to either get your money back or to get a discount or voucher for the future. Whether it be your bank, your credit card company, your mobile phone company or your management company, if you’re not happy, let them know. Here’s a few examples of how you can make a few quid from complaining.

Restaurants

Say you got a poor meal in a restaurant. Instead of meekly paying for it and saying nothing, ask to speak to a manager. Let them know that the meal wasn’t good value for money. You could ask for the meal to be taken off your bill, or maybe get a free meal or bottle of wine to the next time you visit. You could even ask for a voucher.

Supermarkets

What happens if you buy a product you’re not happy with from your local supermarket? Do you bring it back and ask for a refund, or just throw it out and forget about it.

Bring the item back to the supermarket the next time you’re there and ask for a refund, or replacement. Explain how unhappy you are and maybe they might even throw in a few vouchers.

If the local store doesn’t help you out, write to the head office explaining the situation and letting them know that their local store wasn’t very helpful and that if they don’t follow up that you’ll be taking your business elsewhere. You might find that you’ll get some vouchers or a gift card worth more than the original product, just to keep you happy.

North – South multiples

I’m not advising that everyone do this, but it’s a money maker none the less. A ValueIreland.com reader bought several items of clothing in a store in Northern Ireland significantly cheaper than they were in Dublin.

When she discovered some problems, she went to the version of the store in Dublin and demanded a refund. She got her refund, but at the more expensive Dublin prices rather than the cheaper Northern Ireland price. A nice little earner to get away with.

Holidays

If you’ve been away on a holiday but you weren’t happy, you should immediately make your complaint as soon as you get home. Many tour operators and holiday companies will hope that you put up and shut up long before they think about giving you any compensation.

Don’t let them away with it – fight for your due compensation by writing to head office. Persistence is the key to success with holiday complaints particularly if you’re case is legitimate, well put and politely argues. So keep at it. At the very least, you could get a voucher or a discount on your next years holidays.

Complain to the ESB

Something that a not a lot of people know, but if you complain to the ESB and for various reasons, if they don’t reply, they’ll give you €40. If they don’t respond to your complaint within 10 working days, they’ll pay you €40. If they promise you a refund for something, and they don’t within 10 days, they’ll give you an extra €40. Worth bearing in mind if you do have a problem with your electricity supplier.

Stick with it

With all these complaints, at some point, the companies will have to do something for you if you keep at them. If you have a legitimate complaint, you’d hope they’d do something sooner rather than later.

Remember though, it’s your money that you’re trying to get back, so stick with your complaints until you get what you’re looking for.

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Switch to save more: At last, the power of real competition

Irish News of the World

February 22nd, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Electricity Competition Arrives in Ireland

Like the 19A bus, we wait for 4 years for a competitor to arrive for the ESB in a deregulated electricity market, and then in a month we get two – Bord Gais Energy and Airtricity. But before we get carried away, there are 19 electricity suppliers in the UK so we’ve a long way to go.

This is still good news for the Irish consumer. But how much can we actually save, and is everything as good as it seems. And more importantly, are there any catches?

Bord Gais Energy this week announced a promise to new customers that they will be always at least 10% cheaper than the ESB for the first year you sign up to them. They then guarantee to be 5% cheaper than the ESB for year 2 and year 3 after that.

If you’re a gas customer of Bord Gais already, they’ll give you an extra 2% discount, and as in incentive to pay by direct debit, they’ll give you another 2% off.

For the average electricity customer who can pay up to €1000 per year on electricity that’s a saving of between €100 and €125 per year.

Airtricity arrived a couple of weeks ago to the household market, but things are a little more complicated as they have 6 different discount levels. Depending on how you pay, they will give you between a discount of between 3% (paying by cheque) and 10% (for the Level Payment Plan and eBill).

Airtricity don’t provide a discount guarantee like Bord Gais Energy, but they’ll “endeavour” to provide the same discounts no matter what the ESB does.

So moving to Airtricity will save the average electricity customer up to €90 per year.
But with Airtricity you do have the benefits of using electricity that’s significantly greener than its competitors. 79% of electricity from Airtricity is from renewable resources, compared to 16% from Bord Gais Energy and 9% from the ESB.

This all sounds too good to be true – so where’s the catch?

For a start, even with these reductions, we’re still paying too much for our electricity. Last November, Sustainable Energy Ireland reported that Irish consumers were paying 20% more for our electricity than our European neighbours. But it’s a start I suppose.

What about switching away from the ESB? We’re told that switching will be simple and that we won’t even notice. We just ring up, give a meter reading and our meter number from our bill and that the rest will happen in the background.

But many of us tried to change land line or broadband provider in the past where the change was supposed to be equally simple. Given reports already this week, the ESB will be losing customers by the thousand, so it remains to be seen how easily the ESB will give up their customers.

A frequent problem when switching phone or land line providers in the past has been consumers receiving two bills – one from their new company and one from their old one. Given that an electricity bill is hard to read in the first place, this has the potential to cause serious headaches if companies get it wrong.

A further potential problem, similar also to what happened when the telecoms market opened up, could be the sales tactics of the competing companies trying to win your new business, or to win you back after you switch.

This was the source of enormous problems for electricity customers in the UK following their electricity deregulation, particular for older customers. Unscrupulous sales people were found to use bullying tactics to try to get customers to switch providers, or to switch back to their old supplier after moving. In some cases it was found that sales people actually forged signatures on switching forms to boost their commissions.

So what should consumers do?  Recently, we’ve had reports that Minister Eamon Ryan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen hoped to see the ESB reduce its prices in the next couple of months, possibly by up to 15%.

If you’re not keen on switching then you might still save yourself over €125 anyway by staying put. But that’s in the future. Moving today to Bord Gais Energy can save you that much immediately, and possibly a total of €250 if the ESB do drop their prices.

Check out TheBigSwith.ie or Airtricity.ie if you want to find out more, or ValueIreland.com for more research on electricity competition.

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Will Endesa bring proper electricity competition to Ireland?

In the last week or so, it’s been announced that Endesa of Spain will make further inroads into the Irish electricity with the furhter purchase of 6 power stations from the ESB. This will apparently give Endesa 14% of the Irish electricity market by capacity.

Given the current lack of competition in the Irish residential electricity market (as researched here), it can only be hoped that Endesa will actually become a real competitor to the ESB.

Though, given that the ESB sold them the power stations in the first place, that might be a long time coming, if at all.

Given that there’s zero mention at all of “ireland” on the Endesa website, that might give an indication of the low priority they give to power generation in Ireland.

So, we will probably be waiting much longer for real electricity competition – now only 4 years, almost to the day, since the market was deregulated.

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Did you tell the CER, ESB and Bord Gais what you think?

Did anyone actually go to the public consultation meeting on Monday morning, 10am, in the Gresham Hotel? The hoteliers came out strongly against the price rises anyway according to the Irish Independent.

I wonder was there a “good turnout“?

The presentations given by the ESB and Bord Gais at the meetings, justifying their price rise requests, are available here.

I gave up after 3 pages on the Bord Gais one. I wonder what the powerpoint gurus have to say about them?

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Tell the CER what you think about Gas/Electricity rises

The Irish Independent today wrote that the energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) are having a public consultation meeting where:

CONSUMERS will get a chance to air their views on proposed price increases in gas and electricity.

This opportunity is being provided because of the fact that gas will increase by 4.2% and electricity by 5.8% on January 1st, 2009.

The public meeting is planned for 10am on Monday November 10th, in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin 1. Almost as handy a time to hold a meeting as the Consumer Association of Ireland AGM. You’d almost think that they didn’t want anyone to attend.

The public meeting is expected to last until 1.15pm and will involve presentations from the CER, Bord Gais and the ESB. The full meeting details are available here.

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How to build a website about nothing!

The useless Commission for Energy Regulation has launched it’s new “customer focused website“. This website has been in development since February 2005. Can you believe it – it’s taken them 3 years to put together a website that will tell customers nothing about what they really want to know when it comes to gas and electricity.
  1. Why am I being charged so much, and who keeps allowing the suppliers increase their prices?
  2. Why isn’t there any competition in the gas or electricity markets?

It’s nearly 4 years now since the electricity market was deregulated for domestic electricity supply. And unfortunately, there’s still no competition for the ESB – our research done in 2005 is still valid today with very little need for updates (unfortunately).

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Saving Money on your Gas and Electricity Bills

It’s a couple of weeks now since the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) admitted that the ESB and Bord Gais would be allowed increase their charges to customers – despite the fact that their fuel costs will have dropped by 20% in the last 3-4 weeks.

We could go on about the fact that this is yet another useless government quango that amazingly describes its mission as “acting in the interests of consumers is to ensure that: the prices charged are fair and reasonable”.

But we won’t! We’ll be a whole lot more positive and provide a listing of simple Top Tips that you can apply to your day to day lives which should cut down on your usage of both gas and electricity. This is something that I’ve successfully done in the past, and continue to do today. With a little bit of thought and effort, you could at least save yourself the cost of any price increases.

Here’s our Top Tips to reduce your electricity costs:

  • Unplug your phone charger when its not actually charging a phone.
  • Turned off your TV/Video/DVD/Digital box at the wall at night – equipment on stand-by uses up to 20% of the energy it would use when fully on.
  • As your light bulbs go out, replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) – it’ll be the law soon anyway. These bulbs use 20% of the energy and last up to 15 times as long (though they are initially more expensive to buy).
  • Always make sure to always switch off lights when you leave a room – energy is wasted lighting unoccupied rooms. Also, there’s rarely need for lights on in hallways if you’re not there – though I know it’s an “Irish thing” to have lights on in the hallway when you’re home.
  • A simple thing that can be done every time you make a cup of tea – and I used to always fall foul of this myself. Stop overfilling the kettle – only boil as much water as you need.
  • It’s said that you should avoid unnecessary electricity use between 5pm and 7pm. For me, I’m rarely home before 7 anyway.
  • If you need to replace any home appliances (such as fridges, cookers or boilers), make sure you select A rated models which will be much more efficient.
  • Don’t forget to use half load or economy programme on your washing machine, dishwasher or tumble dryer if you’re not filling them up. Alternatively, just wait for a full load.
  • The temptation these days with always-on broadband is to leave your computer always on as well. Turning your computer whenever you’re not using it for more than an hour, and especially overnight and during the day if you’re at work could save you 25% of the cost of powering your computer for the year.
  • Do you really need a tumble dryer? After the fridge, they’re the second biggest user of electricity in the household. Can you line dry your clothes instead?
And here’s our Top Tips to reduce your gas costs:
  • Check the level your heating is turned to – I turned down my heating to 20ºC. By lowering your thermostat by 1ºC, it will knock 10% off your heating bill.
  • You should also regularly check the timing settings for your central heating – do you need it on for as long as it’s currently set to be on? Even cut 10 minutes here and there.
  • Keep your curtains closed in the evenings – otherwise heat can escape through the windows. But if you have south facing windows, leave them open during the day to take in any heat that we might get in the coming months.
  • Check which rooms have heat turned on in them. If you absolutely need to have heat on in those rooms, keep the doors closed – otherwise switch off the heat in those rooms.
  • In such unused rooms, make sure that the windows and air vents are closed properly. Reducing drafts through the whole house will do two things – save energy on normal heating costs, and will remove any temptation to turn on the heat if people are feeling cold.
  • Do you have leaky taps or shower heads especially hot water taps? Get them fixed as soon as possible to reduce wasting your hot water.
  • Use less hot water wherever possible. Don’t wash your teeth, or shave, or wash the dishes under running hot water taps. Take a shower in the morning rather than a bath in the evening.
  • If you’ve a gas cooker, remember that you lose 20% of the heat in the oven every time you check your dinner. Make sure you use a ring size to suit the saucepan you’re using, and always place the saucepan dead centre on the ring.
  • Make sure to switch off all your central and hot water heating if you’re away for the day, or for the weekend.
  • Always make sure your radiators are not covered over, or left hiding behind furniture. The clearer the space around a radiator, the better the circulation of heat around the room from it.
Remember, all these tips are things to you can pretty much do right now. You don’t need to spend any big money to start. Just do it now and save yourself some cash.
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No ESB switch

Irish Independent
Orla O’Sullivan, February 17th, 2005

Value Ireland is today quoted as a “Market observer” (well, we think we are and are open to correction) in a short piece about the ESB and the opening up of the electricity market this coming Saturday. In an article not attributed to anyone, in the “Euro Notes” section, the piece reads as follows –

CONSUMERS get the right to use a potentially cheaper electricity supplier than ESB this Saturday, but it won’t be as easy as flicking a switch.

Market observers question whether it will be worthwhile for ESB competitors to cater to new customers other than businesses.

Details of the half dozen contenders to ESB can be found on the website of the Commission for Energy Regulation (www.cer.ie).

Value Ireland has carried out its own research into what the electricity market will be like for Irish consumers after market de-regulation.

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Where’s the electricity competition?

In case you didn’t know, way back in February 2005, the Irish electricity market for residential consumers was deregulated. At that time, we were told in an enormous amount of hype that we’d all be able to choose our electricity suppliers – removing our dependence on the ESB.

At that time, I did some research on what the options were for consumers – the original article is available by clicking here.

Back in 2005, there were 6 possible electricity suppliers other than the ESB. At that time, none supplied (or had any plans to supply) residential customers. A couple of months later though, it was reported that Airtricity would be entering the residential market – which they did for a while, backed out for a while more, and re-entered the residential market again in 2007.

As of today, more than 3 years later, Airtricity are still the only competitors to the ESB for residential electricity consumers. The market for alternative suppliers of electricity is still pretty shocking. Of the original 6 possible options, 2 have now been taken over by one company (Scottish & Southern Energy has taken over both Airtricity and CH Power). One other, Direct Independent Energy, seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. The remaining 3 – Bord Gais, ESB Independent Energy, and Energia – still won’t supply electricity to residential customers.

There are now, according to this list from EirGrid, 14 customer supply companies in the electricity market. However, none of the 8 new participants will supply electricity to the residential market – their focus is only on business customers.

So what’s the competition like between Airtricity and the ESB? Well, I’d like to be able to show you the comparative costs – however, that I’m able to find, neither company provides the cost of electricty on their websites. However, back in 2007 when I did the last research, the prices were exactly the same.

Some competition!

Oh, and by the way, you should be thanking the Commission for Energy Regulation – “The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is the independent body responsible for overseeing the liberalisation of Ireland’s energy sector.”

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A couple of short comments…

  • I’ve started using the StatCounter product for tracking visitors to this blog. It’s been great fun for the past week seeing where people are accessing this site from, and what they were looking for to get here. There’s been some amusing stuff like someone from an ESB computer searching Google for “electricity competition in ireland“. Or someone from an AIB computer who searched for “rip off Ireland“.
  • There’s a new ladies magazine that was brought to my attention called Prudence. According to the blurb on their website, Prudence is “a new kind of magazine for the thinking woman. Are you constantly broke? Up to your eyes in debt? Then Prudence is the magazine for you”. The magazine has loads of money saving articles which look pretty useful and they have a columnist called Edwina Sobbs – The diary of a cautious Corkonian. Worth checking out!
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