56.3% gas hike amounts to more than recent annual bills

The Consumer Council has said a looming 56.3 per cent hike in prices for Derry Firmus Energy customers is higher than what a typical annual bill would have been until recent times.

The watchdog said the hike will impact approximately 62,000 domestic and small business gas customers in the Ten Towns area, which includes Derry, when it takes effect next month.

It has described it as the ‘most shocking’ of recent energy hikes and warned that some vulnerable households will not be able to afford to either heat or eat this winter, if significant supports are not made available.

The 54.3 per cent hike means the annual gas bill of a typical household with a credit meter will rise by about £847 per year, and that those customers with a prepayment gas meter (PAYG) will see their typical costs increase by around £806 per year.

Gas price hike

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Raymond Gormley, Head of Energy Policy at the Consumer Council said: “Of all the recent energy price increases this announcement is the most shocking.

"We are facing into a very serious crisis this winter and we are angry and fearful on behalf of Northern Ireland consumers. Until recent times, a household’s typical annual bill was lower than the amount of this increase.

“Once this price rise takes place on October 3, consumer bills will be around four times the norm, highlighting why the Consumer Council has been calling for much more support for consumers.

“We know from speaking to consumers daily that many are choosing between heating and eating, and for some, neither is an option. It is really worrying to think how these consumers are going to cope over the winter months. Such high prices will make the coming winter miserable for many and life threatening for some.”

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56.3% gas price hike for Derry Firmus customers

Mr. Gormley said the price hikes are due to the sustained high price of wholesale gas and follow well-publicised rises in home heating oil, electricity and grocery costs.

"This is extremely worrying news for consumers in vulnerable situations and low-income households. It also means a wider group of households than ever are having their budgets stretched ever further.

“We urge anyone who is struggling to pay their energy bills or top-up their meter to contact their supplier directly for help and support. We also encourage consumers to think about ways they can reduce their energy costs through energy efficiency and if possible, try to save money over the next few weeks to cover energy costs during the coming winter.”

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The Ten Towns area includes Derry, Limavady, Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon (including Lurgan and Portadown), Newry and more than 25 other towns and villages in the surrounding areas.

The Consumer Council’s website has a number of free resources including Switch On: A Guide for Home Energy Users to help consumers be more energy efficient at home, get the best from their electricity or gas supply and save money.

Consumers can also get in touch with the Consumer Council for free independent advice by calling Freephone 0800 121 6022 or by emailing [email protected]