‘Reminder’ delivered to NI energy suppliers

Northern Ireland’s Utility Regulator has said it has “reminded” energy suppliers of their legal obligations amid rising prices.

The Utility Regulator chief executive John French said: “This rise in energy bills has been a direct result of the record worldwide energy prices that we have seen over the last 18 months.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any control over worldwide energy prices, however, our role to protect and empower all energy consumers means we can ensure that help is available.”

He continued: “Energy suppliers are required by their licence to ensure they proactively help customers who are having difficulty paying their bills.”

£10 note burning on a gas hob

Mr French said he raised the legal duties on energy suppliers wth them directly.

“We have reminded energy suppliers of their regulatory obligations to protect customers in debt and have also had individual meetings to ensure suppliers are doing all they can to support their customers,” he said.

“Another element of our consumer protection role is through our work with the Department for Communities, Department for the Economy, and the Consumer Council. We established a working group with these organisations last year to actively explore what practical measures could be brought forward to alleviate the burden of these higher prices on consumers. I am pleased that the Northern Ireland Executive has provided significant funding to support local energy consumers.”

Mr French added: “We recently published survey[i] results which showed that even before the recent price increases, consumers were already taking steps to change their behaviour in response to rising bills. Thirty-four per cent of consumers had reduced their electricity use in the past year and 28% had reduced their gas usage.”

Sinead Campbell, from Advice NI, said: “Advice NI are beginning to see a steady increase in demand as we have already dealt with 34.5% more clients in 2021/2022 than during the same period for 2020/21. We believe this trend will continue to rise in 2022 and remain high during 2023 and 2024.”