Belfast Telegraph

Consumers less likely to switch suppliers in Northern Ireland as old habits die hard

By Rachel Martin

Consumers in Northern Ireland are less likely to switch electricity suppliers compared to their southern counterparts.

The Utility Regulator estimates that around 10% of domestic electric customers here change suppliers each year.

In the South, meanwhile, switching rates have risen over the last two years from around 14% to 16%.

A spokesperson for the Utility Regulator said: "There are procedures in place that allow domestic electricity customers to switch easily, with no restrictions on how many times they switch or how many customers can switch at one time."

Research carried out by the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (CCNI) in autumn showed that one third of consumers worry about their home energy bills.

While lower prices and different tariffs are often available, people fail to switch because old habits die hard.

Experts also say that because Power NI has been the market leader for so long, customers can be wary to leave and are sceptical of younger companies.

Richard Williams, head of energy at the CCNI, said: "Households in NI now have six suppliers to choose from. The CCNI tracks the tariffs offered by each and puts the information on our website to help people see if they could save money by switching.

"The biggest savings come when you switch not only your supplier, but also your payment method.

"So it is important to look at all the elements - for example, could you also move to direct debit payments instead of cash or cheque, and online bills instead of postal ones?

"Switching is simple. There is no interruption to supply.  All you have to do is contact the supplier you wish to switch to and they will manage the process. 

"There will be no change to your household wiring or meter, you will just start getting bills from your new supplier."

Power NI claims that 20,000 of the customers who switched have moved back to the company within the last five years - a phenomenon company bosses put down to good service and more frequent meter readings.

Belfast Telegraph


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