Tuesday, 21 April 1964
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Ryan: asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he is aware that door-to-door salesman in Dublin suburbs, using the financial and hire-purchase facilities made available to them and their customers by the Electricity Supply Board, have enticed housewives to purchase superfluous electrical equipment beyond their means; and that as a consequence supplies of electricity have been disconnected and court enforcement actions have been used against these housewives; and if he will ascertain the losses suffered by the Electricity Supply Board in such transactions to date, and take steps (a) to protect the funds of the ESB from any further losses on unsound hire-purchase transactions and (b) to protect the public from door-to-door pressure selling, where hire-purchase instalments are put on the electricity accounts.
Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. Childers): I am not so aware. The Electricity Supply Board have informed me that they do not make their hire-purchase facilities available to door-to-door salesman but only to certain approved traders. It is not the practice of the ESB to disconnect  supply for non-payment of hire-purchase instalments and they have, in fact, no power in law to do so.
Mr. Ryan: May I ask the Minister to make further inquiries into this matter and in particular, into the practice whereby many firms themselves engage door-to-door salesmen who have been known to sell television sets under hire-purchase facilities and to describe them in hire-purchase forms as washing machines and other pieces of domestic equipment? Is the Minister aware that the ESB are well aware of a case where one housewife was persuaded to buy three washing machines and two refrigerators, all of which were charged on the ESB account and that subsequently, because of failure to pay the account, the electricity was disconnected? Would it be asking too much of the Minister to carry out an exhaustive inquiry into these undesirable practices particularly where they develop because the ESB took away, or, shall I say, denied to established traders such as hardware merchants, the facilities which they have made freely available to this type of undesirable salesman?
Mr. Childers: I have been informed by the ESB that they choose the traders whom they approve for this type of transaction very carefully. In further reply to the Deputy, bad debt in connection with hire-purchase installations which are carried out through presentation of ESB bills is absolutely negligible and the Deputy must be getting some extraordinary and unusual cases which bear no relation to the position as a whole.
Mr. Ryan: May we take it that in future the ESB will notify people that their electricity cannot be disconnected in respect of the non-payment of hire-purchase instalments because at the moment accounts go out stating that unless the hire-purchase arrears are paid, electricity will be disconnected, while now the Minister tells us that is contrary to law?
Mr. Childers: If the Deputy will give me some examples of this, I shall have them inquired into. At present the position is that the ESB do not disconnect consumers for non-payment of hire-purchase arrears but there are occasions where a consumer is late with his ordinary bill in which case his current is disconnected, as the Deputy knows. If the Deputy can give me any instances of cases where the ESB are infringing the law, I shall have an examination made but I very much doubt if such cases exist.
Mr. Ryan: I shall now ask him a question. Is it not a fact that the ESB may allocate hire-purchase debts to money paid in respect of current, so that the legal position as stated by the Minister is only so much paper law but has no value in fact?
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