Caught in a livelihood crisis that needs an answer

Inflation has now gripped most areas of life, but nowhere has it felt its sharp tooth more than in energy costs.

As such, Electric Ireland’s move to increase its base price by 36 per cent will be hit hard. The increase of €65.63 per year brings it to €283 when VAT is included.

Minor miracles, “profiteering” charges were leveled.

Many struggling are already worried that the decision to increase prices by 23.4 percent – or an additional €300 a year – will push them past their pain point. Announcing a rise in the average gas bill to 24.8 per cent – or €220 a year – will also be wise.

It is long since Henry Ford observed: “Whereas it was once the customer who favored the dealer by doing business with him, conditions changed until it was the dealer who favored the customer by dealing with him sold.”

As a retail arm of state utility ESB, the government has some say in pricing.

It’s the largest electricity supplier in Ireland and its price increase follows similar moves by Bord Gáis Energy, Energia and Prepay Power.

No wonder the government criticizes such increases in penalties. The increases are all the more difficult to defend after ESB Group recently announced an operating profit of almost 700 million euros.

“We recognize that the rising cost of living is threatening households across the country,” said Marguerite Sayers, Electric Ireland’s Executive Director, Customer Solutions.

But such “awareness” is likely cold comfort to customers struggling to make ends meet.

The Taoiseach has come under pressure from Sinn Féin to urge the EU to further reduce VAT on fuel prices.

Mr. Martin has promised to strive for “flexibility”. These increases make this a bit of an urgency for households across the country.

Mr Martin rightly pointed out that since the last budget the State has allocated almost EUR 2 billion in income support and other measures.

But Electric Ireland hiked electricity and gas prices twice last year.

It announced two 10 percent increases in its electricity tariff in 2021, as well as two increases (9 percent and 8 percent) in its gas prices.

The fact that the almost 8,000 workers enjoy half-price electricity doesn’t help them much.

Mr Martin has accepted that energy and food price increases are likely to continue until the end of the year.

The government cannot take separate measures “every week” to help households, he said.

But as Sinn Féin CEO Mary Lou McDonald has reminded him, workers are facing a livelihood crisis that demands a response.

Both he and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe are urging the European Commission to allow some room for maneuver on VAT.

This barrage of price hikes makes it all the more imperative that they succeed. Caught in a livelihood crisis that needs an answer

Fry Electronics Team

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