Pre-payment electricity metering represented 30% of electricity sold in Northern Ireland, but after the introduction of Liberty this figure rose to 41%. The Liberty pre-payment system was introduced into Northern Ireland as a pilot project in 1999, primarily as a means of debt recovery and debt avoidance. However, it became extremely popular with consumers and use spread. It was an expansion largely driven by word of mouth.
Liberty was an innovative keypad pre-payment system with a flexible vending system – allowing customers to buy energy over the phone, on the internet or from traditional vending outlets. It allowed ‘friendly credit’ too. The system included an easy to use ‘Freedom’ (in home display) which displayed meaningful usage information and gave an audible low credit warning.
NIE started rolling out the Liberty ‘keypad’ pre-payment metering system in 2002 after several years of trials, to replace an earlier generation of physical token ‘Powercard’ pre-payment meters. The Powercard (magnetic card) metering system was not accepted socially and was expensive to maintain.
Because it is easy to use, in Northern Ireland the pre-payment sector has grown multifold – purely because consumers exercised the right to choose how they paid for their use of electricity. Pre-payment electricity metering represented 30% of electricity sold in Northern Ireland, but after the introduction of Liberty this figure rose to 41%.
Liberty in Northern Ireland helped primarily in three important ways: Improved customer satisfaction and reduced complaints Reduced costs by reducing call handling and site visits Gave better data security*