Lack of competition in NI energy market costing households £82m a year

A lack of competition in the Northern Ireland energy market could be costing households over £82 million a year
Gareth McKeown

A LACK of competition in the Northern Ireland energy market could be costing households over £82 million each year, according to new research.

A report by Belfast-based business Echo Northern Ireland shows an estimated £145 saving per household annually is available if customers look to switch suppliers, yet the numbers choosing to do so remain below the UK average.

Just 28 per cent of consumers in the north (around 221,200 households) have switched their supplier in the past 12 months, in comparison to a UK national average of 38 per cent.

The research further shows how almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of consumers said they would switch if prices increased significantly, but the choice is limited by a lack of choice in the local market. In the north there are five domestic electricity and two gas suppliers in the market, compared to around 40 in England, Wales and Scotland.

Jim White, Northern Ireland head of operations at Echo Managed Services, said a lack of competition was an issue.

"Whilst fewer options can lead to an easier supplier decision, in reality it is costing people dear, and when energy suppliers raise their prices, consumers may feel they have little choice but to comply. Nonetheless, with many consumers feeling the pinch, there are some savings out there to be made."

"Our research shows a clear consumer appetite for switching, and there is a huge opportunity for start-up energy suppliers to enter and disrupt the market in Northern Ireland, as has been the case elsewhere," Mr White added.

Last month Click Energy became the latest company in the north to announce a price hike for customers, implementing a 15.77 per cent tariff increase effective from December 1. It followed SSE Airtricity and Power NI, who imposed price increases of 7.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively in October, while Electric Ireland is

implementing a 7.2 per cent hike in February.

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