Demands for oil regulation

Hundreds of households across the North West cannot afford to buy heating oil as the average price hits the highest level in three years, Northern Ireland’s consumer watchdog says.

The Consumer Council is calling on the next Stormont Executive to examine the need for regulating the industry as a key priority following the upcoming Assembly Elections. The average cost for 900 litres of oil is now over £550.

John French, Head of Energy at the Consumer Council, said: “Within the last five weeks the average price of heating oil has risen by a further £50 heaping yet more misery on hard-pressed consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet.

“The most recent Housing Conditions Survey showed that in 2009, 44 per cent of households in Northern Ireland could not afford to heat their home to an adequate standard. It is now estimated that with rising fuel prices, the recent cold winters and the current economic climate, fuel poverty levels have risen above 50%.”

Across the North, gas and electricity customers benefit from a regulatory framework that develops and enforces best practice and guaranteed customer service standards, services for vulnerable customers and energy efficiency.

The heating oil industry, which accounts for 505,000 or 68% of homes in Northern Ireland, has no such obligations.

“Regulation of the home heating oil industry could provide consumers with transparency and reassurance that the price they are being asked to pay is fair”, Mr French added.