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


Only 28% of consumers (around 221,200 households) have switched their supplier in the past 12 months, in comparison to a UK national average of 38%. Estimates suggest that switching could be worth up to £145 per household annually, amounting to millions in unclaimed savings across the region as a whole. 


The report, by Belfast-based outsourced customer contact specialist, Echo Managed Services, also showed that almost two-thirds (65%) of consumers said they would switch if prices increased significantly. However, options in this space are extremely limited; currently there are only five domestic electricity and two gas suppliers in the market, compared to around 40 in England, Wales and Scotland.


Inevitably, wider choice in the UK mainland market does make switching far more profitable for customers, with average savings of around £300 and this may be why switching is more prevalent. However, with an estimated £145 saving per Northern Ireland household readily available, switching energy supplier is far from a worthless exercise.


The research follows news of the recent 15% price hike from Click Energy, which came into effect on 1st December, and increases from other suppliers in recent months.


Jim White, Northern Ireland head of operations at Echo Managed Services, said: “In part, there’s a problem of competition – or lack thereof. 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.


“However, 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.”



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