Regulation of utilities
Companies that supply electricity or gas (or both) to homes and businesses in Ireland, are licenced to do so by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). The role of the CRU is to protect consumers, ensure that supply is kept at a high standard and to promote competition in the industry. The CRU also regulates Irish Water.
If you have a complaint about your energy supplier or Irish Water, and you cannot resolve that complaint with the supplier directly, you can bring the problem to the CRU to investigate.
What does the CRU do?
The CRU has the following main functions:
- Regulation of the energy sector – To protect the interests of gas and electricity customers, ensure a high standard of supply, and promote competition.
- Regulation of the water sector – To protect the interests of customers by monitoring the performance of Irish Water.
- Protecting consumers – To protect the interests of consumers by providing information, setting standards of services and codes of practices, and helping to resolve complaints.
How does the CRU regulate the energy sector?
The CRU regulates energy suppliers by monitoring the following areas:
Electricity and gas retail prices
The CRU checks the prices charged by energy suppliers to protect customers against over-pricing, price-fixing and to make sure that there is a healthy level of competition in the sector.
This includes bringing new companies into the Irish market and making sure that large companies do not have too great a share of the retail market.
Energy customer engagement
This includes checking that companies are not making it difficult to switch suppliers, are managing new connections and that contracts are fair and reasonable.
Energy customer protection
This includes checking that energy companies are telling their customers when they are in arrears, and that companies have plans in place to help customers who are in financial hardship. This also includes handling customer complaints.
How is Irish Water regulated?
Irish Water is responsible for the efficient supply of water to homes and businesses. Its main task is to operate and improve public water and wastewater systems in Ireland to provide safe, reliable and high quality services to customers.
The CRU is Irish Water’s economic regulator while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is its environmental regulator. You can find out more about water supply.
As the economic regulator, the CRU works to make sure that Irish Water is run efficiently. It has a role in the following areas:
- Revenue setting – It assesses and approves the revenue that Irish Water can make over a certain period of time
- Reporting – Irish Water must report to the CRU on its performance every 6 months
- Customer service – Ensuring that Irish Water is following the guidance in its customer handbook. This handbook contains codes of practice, which the CRU approves and regularly reviews to make sure that Irish Water provides the best protection and service for customers.
- Approval of policy and charges – It approves policy
and charges for:
- Connecting customers to the public water and wastewater network (the Irish Water Network). Find out more about water connections.
- Excess water usage by Irish water customers (domestic and non-domestic) and regulates public water and wastewater charges. Find out more about water charges.
The CRU advises the Minister of Housing, Planning and Local Government on how water services are delivered. It also cooperates with the EPA and provides a dispute resolution services for customers of Irish Water.
How does the CRU protect customers?
The CRU has a role to make sure energy customers are protected and to promote competition. It does this by putting in place a rulebook called the Supplier Handbook. This requires suppliers to have codes of practices saying how they will deal with consumers. These codes cover the following areas:
- Customer sign-up
- Marketing and advertising
- Complaints handling
- Vulnerable customers
- Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and budget controllers
- Non-domestic customers
Suppliers must have Customer Charters in place setting out:
- Guaranteed service levels for customers
- Compensation and refund arrangements when service quality levels are not met
Every supplier must put its customer charter and codes on its website. You can find out more about customer protection.
Rules that Irish Water must follow include:
- Providing you with at least 2 days’ notice in advance of planned interruptions to normal supply
- Communicating boil water notices and providing information for the reason and expected time it will be in place
- Providing you with at least 2 weeks’ notice before installing a meter and providing information
- Responding to you within 2 working days if you report a fault on the network
- Responding to complaints within 5 working days with a resolution or an outline of the steps required to resolve the matter
You can find out more about Irish Water consumer protection.
The CRU has customer care teams to help you if you are having issues with your energy supplier or network operator, or with Irish Water. The CRU is an approved body for alternative dispute resolution.
How to make a complaint
If you have a problem, you should first contact either:
- Your electricity supplier for issues around billing, account problems, marketing or advertising, or changing supplier, or
- ESB Networks for problems including a faulty meter, connection costs, emergencies, outages, or connection delays
If you have an issue with Irish Water, you should first make a complaint with them through their complaint handling section.
If you cannot resolve the issue, you have the following options: