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Crowe criticises ESB plans to collect arrears accrued through outdated meters

3 August, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Affairs Seán Crowe TD, responding today to the confirmation by the ESB that the company plans to pursue customers for arrears accrued because of the their outdated meter system, criticised the company saying it was "a new low" that.customers were being penalised for arrears which were accumulated through no fault of their own.

Deputy Crowe said:

"The ESB have confirmed to me today that they will pursue, over a 3 year period, arrears which came about because they failed to update their meter system. What is happening now is that many families struggling to pay bills every month are being told by the ESB that they have to pay additional arrears which accumulated simply because the reset of the budget controllers or meters was not undertaken to take account of the last price increases. This is a further blow after last week‚s news that ESB prices were to go up again by another 8% in October.

"It is a new low for the ESB to hit people for arrears that the company caused by their own faulty billing system. For a company that recently announced after-tax profits of •249 million, it is staggering to hear that they are going to chase people for electricity use which the customers believed to have already paid for in their bills. I am extremely disappointed that the Minister responsible, Dermot Ahern, did not intervene to persuade the ESB of the difficulties this will cause many families since I raised the issue with him a few months ago in the Dáil.

"People who have been struggling for years to pay bills and who thought that they had overcome the problem through a meter system find out that they are once again in debt. I believe that there is a case to be made where people whose meters were not adjusted to register the increases should not have to pay the arrears, accrued through no fault of their own. 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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