Thousands more consumers are expected to be plunged deeper into arrears as fuel prices are expected to increase in the coming months.
Bord Gáis is expected to announce a 12% hike in electricity prices tomorrow which will take effect on August 1, while a 20% to 30% increase in gas prices will take effect from October 1.
This news follows an announcement last week that mortgage interest rates are increasing by 0.25%.
Bord Gáis said that it has installed 8,000 pay-as-you-go gas metres in the first half of this year compared with 650 in the same period last year. It expects that 50,000 customers will be using the metres at the end of the year.
In the first half of this year Bord Gáis also set up 45,000 payment plans for customers struggling to pay their bills. This compares with 31,500 plans for the whole of last year.
A spokesman for Bord Gáis said yesterday that they would encourage people who are having difficulty paying to contact them as soon as possible.
The company has 90 people working full-time in its credit control department, compared with 12 people two years ago.
Director of moneycoach.ie, Frank Conway said that consumers are being asked to fill “too many financial gaps in state, banking and utility provider bottom lines while struggling to supply basic necessities in their own homes”.
There are around 115,000 Bord Gáis customers in arrears with their repayments.
“This year has been a watershed one for consumers. It is becoming a year of significant inflation for basic necessities, including heating, housing and health,” he said.
“Irish consumers continue to suffer from the consequences of a personal income crisis. Rising indebtedness and rising arrears are symptoms of that problem,” said Mr Conway.
The hikes will mean an increase of around €300 a year on customer’s fuel bills.
The energy regulator is expected to decide on the price increase for gas shortly. Gas prices at Bord Gáis are determined by the regulator as Bord Gáis is the dominant player in the market.
Other energy suppliers such as Airtricity and ESB could follow the lead from Bord Gáis and increase prices too, according to experts.
The average annual domestic gas bill in Ireland €689 while the average electricity bill is €989.