CONSUMER watchdogs yesterday hit out at the ESB, after the company decided to stop customers from paying their bills by credit card.
     Campaigners have described the move as ‘anti-competitive’.
     Michael Kilcoyne, the vice-chairman of the Consumers Association of Ireland, said: ‘It’s a further example of the ESB abusing its monopoly.
     â€˜Credit card payment is a popular and convenient form of payment for many people.
     â€˜Obviously the ESB have made this decision in an attempt to save money.’
     But he said the electricity company should absorb the cost of using credit cards so paying bills was simpler.
     The ESB has informed 19,000 customers who were paying by plastic that they will now be forced to use an alternative form of payment.
     The ESB has blamed the cost of credit card transactions, describing it as a ‘very substantial cost’.
     An ESB spokesman claimed: ‘The business must explore the most cost-effective payment channels to keep costs to our customers at a minimum.’
     Bosses also cited additional costs such as the cost of encrypting credit card details that they must store to support the transactions.
     Credit card payments are comparatively expensive for the retailer.
     Typically, credit card companies take about 2.5 per cent of the value of a transaction for the privilege.
     The ESB said customers were notified in April about the change and added that there were still 14 alternative methods of payment remaining.
     Yesterday ESB customer Chris O’Reilly, who lives in Co. Wicklow, said he has paid by credit card for more than 20 years.
     He insisted: ‘By rolling all my utility bills into one, and paying in one lump sum every month, I was able to pay my way in the simplest manner, but now that option is gone.’
     Mr O’Reilly, who has complained to the ESB and the Commission for Energy Regulation, fears that the company will set a precedent amongst companies to refuse credit cards.
     The ESB denied the company had broken a contract by ending the arrangement with existing customers.
     The spokesman also said the Regulator had been told of the change.

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