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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Charlie Weston Twitter Email

UN wants windfall tax on energy companies as complaints rise sharply

Households have been pushed to breaking point by regular price hikes. Photo: Stock image

Price hikes have led to the highest level of complaints to the energy regulator since the financial crash.

There was a 78pc increase in complaints to the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period last year.

It comes as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres accused oil and gas companies of making “excessive” profits from the energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine. He said it was “immoral”.

Mr Guterres called for a windfall tax on energy companies, pointing out that combined profits of the largest energy firms in the first quarter were nearly €100bn.

Hard-pressed households here have faced 58 energy price hikes in 18 months.

Amid the spiralling in- creases, consumers have been flocking to the CRU to take issue with the hikes, many of which are in double-digits each time.

Only this week, around 1.2 million Electric Ireland customers were hit with combined further increases of €477 for gas and electricity. It is the fourth price rise in a year-and-a-half from the supplier.

Households are expected to have to fork out an extra €1,500 a year on power and heating bills.

The rocketing level of complaints to the regulator is despite the fact that, under legislation, it has no role in the regulating of consumer prices.

In a new report, the CRU said its customer care team dealt with 2,208 telephone calls, 4,085 emails, 269 web queries and 74 letters in the first three months of this year.

This is up by 52pc on the level of contacts at the end of last year, and 78pc higher than the same quarter last year.

“A high volume of contacts related to high energy prices and price increases announced by energy suppliers,” the CRU said in its quarterly Customer Contacts and Complaints report.

Large numbers of householders queried the payment by the Government of the €200 credit on electricity bills.

The payment was €176.22 before Vat, but the Vat on electricity bills was cut at the same time. This prompted consumers to complain of getting only a €192.08 credit on their electricity bills.

The exit of Bright Energy from the market in January and the transfer of its customer base to existing suppliers also generated complaints.

Michael Kilcoyne, chairman of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, said it was no surprise there was such a jump in complaints.

“These companies are making huge profits off the misery of people. We need windfall taxes,” he said. Mr Kilcoyne added that the huge energy price rises were partly responsible for the Exchequer generating a surplus of close to €5bn in the seven months to July. He said the Government was benefiting from surging Vat receipts.

“Energy companies are taking money off the poor and it is going into the government coffers and the profits of energy companies,” he said.

Sinn Féin, Labour and People Before Profit have all urged the Government to bring in a windfall tax on energy.

Last week, Bord Gáis Energy reported operating profits were up 74pc in the first half of this year to €39.4m from the same period last year.

Earlier this year, the company, which owns Electric Ireland, reported operating profits of close to €700m for last year, up 10pc on 2020.

Government officials have been reviewing imposing a windfall tax.

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