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Author: Consumer Council
Published on 01 October 2011 08:00 AM

The Consumer Council has reminded energy users that higher electricity and gas prices kick in today, 1 October, following last month’s series of announcements from energy suppliers.

The price rises which range from 18.61 per cent for electricity to 35.4 per cent for gas, will see consumers paying on average an extra £200 a year on heating and lighting their home.

Antoinette McKeown, Consumer Council chief executive said: “From today the majority of households in Northern Ireland will have an energy bill over £2100. This means more and more consumers in Northern Ireland will be making tough decisions as we head into the colder months and cutting back on other essentials if they want to keep warm.”

The latest official government statistics on fuel poverty show that 44 per cent of households (302,000) were in fuel poverty in 2009. Since then households in Northern Ireland have suffered two of the coldest winters on record and experienced significant increases in energy prices. Northern Ireland has the highest energy bills in the United Kingdom and recent statistics show the highest average GB bill is around £1000 cheaper than the average combined oil and electricity bill in Northern Ireland.

“The Consumer Council does not believe electricity regulation and energy policy is working as well as it could for consumers here,” continued Antoinette.

“Electricity bills in Northern Ireland are around 11 per cent more expensive than electricity bills in Great Britain. The Consumer Council has questioned the profit levels of the electricity generators in Northern Ireland which have a profit ratio of 33 per cent, compared to the Top 100 Companies in Northern Ireland which have an average profit margin of 4 per cent.

“With almost one in two households in NI in fuel poverty, the Consumer Council strongly urges the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that electricity generators are not being overpaid within the Single Electricity Market and that consumers are getting a fair deal. It is essential that both energy policy and regulatory frameworks are designed to give the lowest possible prices to consumers.

“The eradication of fuel poverty must be a priority for the NI Executive; we are asking for support for all 44 per cent households struggling now, and a clear plan from the NI Executive as to how it will eradicate fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.

“With competition now available for all NI electricity customers and natural gas customers in Greater Belfast and Larne, consumers can help themselves by shopping around to ensure they are on the best deal. The Consumer Council’s offers Northern Ireland’s only online energy price comparison tool and we are encouraging everyone to use it to check if they are getting the best deal. We also have simple guides to switching suppliers (Switch On), which are available at opens link in new window www.consumercouncil.org.uk or by calling us on 0800 121 6022.”

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