380,000 switch their utility providers

Hundreds of thousands of people switched their electricity and gas provider last year to try and cut the costs of their utility bills.

Figures released by the Commission for Energy Regulation show more than 266,000 consumers changed electricity provider during 2013, an increase of almost 6%, while a further 117,000 switched gas supplier over the same period.

It means almost one in five residential customers changed energy supplier over the past 12 months.

The number of people switching electricity began to grow again last year after switching rates had declined significantly since 2010 when more than 468,000 changed supplier.

A total of 266,226 households switched their electricity provider in 2013 — up 5.6%.

The two biggest suppliers Electric Ireland and Bord Gáis both lost in excess of 30,000 customers net each with new suppliers including PrePayPower and Pinergy being the main beneficiaries, gaining more than 56,000 new clients.

Existing suppliers Energia and Airtricity also had about 4,000 net gains each during the past 12 months.

A record number of households changed gas provider last year, with just over 117,000 switching — up 5.8% on 2012.

The dominant market player, Bord Gáis, was the biggest loser — seeing its net customer base fall by more than 56,000.

The biggest increase in customers was enjoyed by Electric Ireland, which recorded a net gain of almost 52,600 accounts.

Airtricity and Flogas recorded modest net increases of about 4,000 customers each.

Industry experts believe the increase in switching rates last year is a sign that the ongoing financial crisis, which has left many families with little disposable income, has encouraged consumers to continue to seek better offers on their gas and electricity bills.

There is more good news for consumers on the way as the gas market is expected to be fully deregulated in the near future in a move which will allow the largest gas supplier, Bord Gáis, to set its own prices.

Because of its market dominance, Bord Gáis is currently precluded by the regulator from fixing its own price level without the approval of the regulator to respond to competition from other suppliers.

The CER will only allow full deregulation of the market when Bord Gáis’ share of the market falls below 55%. It currently has around 58% of the domestic gas market.

In another move likely to put downward pressure on electricity and gas prices, Energia is set to launch a major promotion later this week to grow its share of the residential electricity and gas markets.

It is understood that Energia, owned by the Northern Ireland-based energy firm, Viridian, which operates two generating stations in Dublin, will offer discounts which could cut up to €300 per annum off energy bills.

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