Families face hidden higher costs for home heating – SVP

Families and elderly people are struggling to cope with increasing charges

Louise McCarthy

Low-income families protesting against water charges could already be hit by hidden heating costs warned the St Vincent de Paul society.

Head of social justice & policy with the national office of SVP John Mark McCafferty warned that people using pay-as-you- go meters for heating costs could be hit by “hidden surcharges”.


Mr McCafferty warned that low-income families on these meters may be actually forking out €150 more in the year than they should.

He said that the “bewildering array” of pre-pay options was leaving people confused. According to Mr McCafferty, the emergence of pre-paid energy suppliers was costing people more money.

Some companies were charging a premium of approximately 60 cents meaning that when people topped-up their meters by €10, their money would not go as far as before.

Mr McCafferty said that the costs of the premium depened on the type of meter. People who had a meter installed because they were in arrears were not at risk of the premium costs. Low-income people installing meters in a bid to save money could in fact be spending more than they anticipated, warned Mr McCafferty.

He appealed for families to get information about the pre-pay options they were using, with people being forced to ration heating costs.

“Older people generally are afraid to turn on the heat. There is a fear of getting into debt. Instead they will live in a cold house and risk death. Young people are getting into debt with heating bills,” said Mr McCafferty.

Acknowledging that while the pre-pay meters have the advantage of allowing people to control their spending, Mr McCafferty said that it is a “very complicated marketplace”.


“People need to be aware that some meters vary widely in terms of their overall costs. I think that families have less of an issue with these costs than they should have.

“I would urge people to compare prices and see what payment option they are on,”said Mr McCafferty.