Belfast Telegraph

ESB 'denies poorest cheaper tariff'

Energy giant ESB has been accused of blacklisting the out-of-work and poor from accessing its cheapest price plan.

Consumer rights chiefs claimed the power supplier was trying to cherry-pick customers for a price war and branded the rules unfair.

Ann FitzGerald, National Consumer Agency (NCA) chief executive, said she was greatly concerned that the new price plans appear to limit or exclude vulnerable consumers.

"We think it's totally unacceptable for a state body to have an approach that precludes consumers who are in arrears from availing of all these products," she said.

"You can't preclude people from the competition that has come into the Irish market.

"The ESB offering is not fair for everybody and that's not good enough from a state company."

The ESB, rebranded as ESB Electric Ireland, is targeting the return of about 100,000 customers from Airtricity and Bord Gais in a new pricing plan to bring its share of the market up to the 60% mark.

It has set three rules for consumers to save up to 17% - based on the current cost of ESB electricity supply - on household bills.

Customers do not need 12 months clear of arrears on their accounts as long as arrears have been cleared; any debts must be cleared before an application will be considered; and the issue of arrears does not apply to social welfare recipients so long as they sign up for a special minimum payment and direct debit scheme.

An ESB spokesman refuted any suggestions it was discriminating against some of the worst off. The company also insisted the cheap tariff - based on customers using direct debit, online billing and signing up for both gas and electricity supply - was not closed to the over 70s or those on social welfare.

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