Opinion

Electric Ireland customers have been left in the dark

The Irish News view: Cause of the stressful problem affecting keypad top ups must be resolved to avoid a repeat, and customers compensated

Up to 4,500 Electric Ireland customers have been potentially affected by problem with its keypad top ups
Up to 4,500 Electric Ireland customers have been potentially affected by problem with its keypad top ups

The expectation that we can rely on the electricity supply coming into our homes is so absolutely basic in 2023 Ireland that householders understandably take it for granted.

However, in recent days Electric Ireland customers have encountered a problem which, through no fault of their own, has seen them left without electricity. The electric supplier has been slow to come to grips with a problem, to the intense frustration of affected customers who have been left in the dark.

The issue has affected those who use a keypad to top up their meters. As many as 4,500 meters were capped at £10 of credit meaning anything more than that could not be added. As the amount of credit on meters dwindled the affected customers were unable to top up. A message reading 'Credit Hi' appeared on some meters; Electric Ireland said this meant people were unable to enter new top ups until it had cancelled all previous top ups.

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Approximately 120 customers lost their supply over the weekend. Most were apparently reconnected by Monday but that doesn't diminish what must have been a distressing experience for all those affected.

In some instances Electric Ireland has been able to resolve the problem remotely, but in others new meters have had to be installed.

There have been complaints about difficulties in contacting the company and getting a response. This is an all too familiar scenario when it comes to trying to speak to representatives of an organisation which has let down people; those caught up in last week's air traffic control debacle will be able to empathise.

Electric Ireland may also consider itself fortunate that what it describes as a "technical issue" – a textbook example of the bland corporate-speak that companies seem compelled to resort to when they inflict calamities upon their paying customers – didn't happen in the winter or during a cold snap. The idea that customers, especially the ill, elderly and vulnerable, might be left with no light or heat for a lengthy period is appalling.

Electric Ireland has appealed for its customers to be patient as it tries to fix a "complex issue". It has certainly tested the patience of those affected to the limit, who may well wonder just how complex it can be to ensure they have a reliable supply.

It is imperative that the cause of the credit meter problem is identified and resolved so there is no repeat of what has been a stressful and upsetting episode for customers, who should be compensated for the inconvenience.