Electric Ireland spends £5m in bid to grow market share
ELECTRIC Ireland is to spend £5 million as it plans to increase its share of the domestic electricity supply market in the north.
The Dublin-headquartered firm, part of the ESB Group, is creating 45 jobs at a new dedicated customer service centre in Belfast - 30 of which are already in place.
The company has been supplying households in Northern Ireland with electricity since 2011 but has not yet made significant inroads into the domestic sector with just 1,750 customers according to the most recent figures.
It hopes offering new customers up to £75 cashback will tempt more to make the jump from rival suppliers.
Electric Ireland said it will not tie those switching into a contract with £50 offered for new customers straight away.
A loyalty bonus of £20 for paying by direct debit and £5 for receiving bills online will be paid after a year.
With a standard tariff of £15.56p per unit, the cashback brings the offering broadly in line with those at the cheaper end of the spectrum based on average usage over 12 months.
The north's domestic electricity market opened to competition in 2007 but it wasn't until SSE Airtricity entered the sector in 2010 that incumbent Power NI faced competition.
The are currently five electricity suppliers for households to choose from in Northern Ireland including Budget Energy and Click Energy which launched last week.
A sixth company, Open Electric was due to launch in August. It is understood it will announce its tariffs by the end of this month.
Electric Ireland said its "full scale entry" would "provide greater choice for residential electricity consumers".
The company's executive director Jim Dollard said: “We are not seeking to lure people with the appearance of upfront discounts that are unclear and fall away. We will provide enduring competitive rates and very clear cash bonus rewards for switching to us and for staying with us (£75).
“Customers who pay by direct debit can avail of this great pricing without entering into a contract. We believe people will choose to stay with us because they will like our prices and our service – not because they have to.
“Our ambition is to provide competitive products and simple ways to switch to Electric Ireland through our dedicated phone and online service."
The Utility Regulator welcomed the increased competition that was opening in the domestic supplier market.
The watchdog's chief executive Jenny Pyper said: “The entry of Click Energy and Open Electric and the full scale entry of existing supplier, Electric Ireland, is good news for consumers.
"As competition increases, it fosters more choice, cheaper bills and better customer service for consumers. This shows that there is real confidence in Northern Ireland’s domestic electricity market, and we anticipate further new supplier entry in the coming months.
“Consumers have told us that they want a choice of electricity supplier and improved switching arrangements. We are working closely with existing and potential suppliers to make this happen. We will carry on with our work to protect the interests of consumers and ensuring suppliers provide a quality standard of service.”