The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) has called on retailers to stop adding surcharges when providing top-ups for electricity and gas pay-as-you-go or ‘pre-payment’ cards or payments.
Pay-as-you-go or ‘pre-payment’ meters, supplied by the Network companies of ESB and Bord Gais, are currently used by over 150,000 people. Most of these customers are on a low income and use pay-as-you-go or ‘pre-payment’ meters as a way of managing their energy bills and paying off arrears.
A survey of shops in one Dublin area by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) found that the majority of the shops were adding surcharges to the service.
The SVP believes that the practice also happens in other parts of the country.
"A fixed surcharge is adding further pressure on many people who are making the effort to budget properly and avoid falling into arrears with their energy bills.
"Once again people struggling on lower incomes are expected to pay more for essential goods and services; in this case energy.
"We have consistently said that pay-as-you-go or ‘pre-payment’ customers should not be disadvantaged by using these meters - a view that energy providers agree with.
"Retailers willingly entered into an agreement to provide this service. And with 150,000 people topping up regularly the opportunity for additional purchases in their shops is considerable. The practice of retailers adding surcharges when providing top-ups for electricity and gas is unacceptable and should be discontinued," said SVP.