New code of practice for electricity firms, to help people pay bills

AUDIO: All five main energy suppliers have adopted the code

The Minister for Energy is urging anyone struggling to pay electricity bills to engage with their supplier.

A new code of practice for electricity supply companies which has been launched today will guarantee that no customer who engages with their supplier over arrears will be cut off.

Speaking at the launch, Pat Rabbitte described the code of practice as the first step in easing the burden on those under financial pressure.

Minister Rabbitte says lowering energy prices is not an option, but the new code will provide relief to those in distress.

The 'Energy Engage Code' is aimed at protecting customers in financial difficulty and has been voluntarily adopted by the five main energy suppliers.

It will come into effect on June 1st.

Under the code,suppliers will guarantee that no customer engaging with them will be cut off. They will seek to identify vulnerable customers at an earlier stage and will treat each customer individually - with payment plans offered to any customer in difficulty.

The new Code will be independently audited to ensure that all energy suppliers are complying with it.

The publication of the code follows months of work by a taskforce formed by the Minister, to examine what could be done to better protect energy consumers in financial difficulty.

Brendan Hennessy, Social Justice Officer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has welcomed the launch.