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ESB meter payment system should be carefully assessed

16 June, 2004


Sinn Féin TD for Dublin southwest Seán Crowe has expressed concern at certain practices of the ESB today while speaking in the Dáil on legislation regarding the ESB.

Deputy Crowe said:

"I am very concerned about an issue in my own constituency in Tallaght, which the Company and Minister ought to investigate. That is the fact that in one Supermarket the machine where people purchase tokens for their meter is situated in an Off-Licence. Given that those who have a meter are people most likely to have had a tradition or difficulty paying bills in the past, this can often present a huge temptation for customers with alcohol-related problems and some understandably find it impossible to resist. Instead of buying units of electricity many are buying units of alcohol. I would appeal to the Minister to use his influence with the ESB to ensure that meter machines are not placed in such obviously unsuitable locations.

"Another issue that has arisen in relation to meters is the fact that the vast majority of the 20,000 meters have not been adjusted to take into account recent increases in charges. This means that people paying for their electricity through the meter are actually accumulating debts.

"There have already been cases where people have discovered this and it can have quite a disturbing effect on those who have been struggling for years to pay bills and who thought that they had overcome that problem through the meter system only to find out that they are once again in debt. This is something that the company should address as a matter of urgency to ensure that the meters are updated. I believe that there is also a case to be made where people whose meters have not been adjusted to register the increases should not have to pay debts, which they have accrued through no fault of their own.

"While the ESB has had increased levels of profits over the past number of years, it has also imposed quite severe increases on household consumers. While it is obviously a good thing that a state enterprise is able to generate such profits, this ought not to be at the expense of the consumer. I believe it should be the case that the customers of the ESB should benefit more directly through not having to pay increased electricity bills. This is particularly important for those many people on low incomes who find it increasingly difficult to meet their bills." ENDS

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