30/09/2003

General Consumer Council attacks gas price hike

The General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland has voiced its disapproval at plans by Phoenix Natural Gas to raise domestic and business prices for its customers.

The gas firm announced on Tuesday that it is to increase its gas prices from 1 October by an average of 10.8%.

With one in three gas consumers here living on less than £135 per week, the Council said it was particularly concerned about the impact the hike would have on people who are finding it hard to make ends meet.

Commenting on the announcement, Steve Costello, Chairman of the Council, said: “This price increase will add to the plight of many households who cannot afford to keep warm this winter. Northern Ireland has the highest level of fuel poverty of any region in the UK.

"Ironically this announcement comes at a time when many organisations – including Government – are working hard to eliminate fuel poverty.”

Mr Costello said that while the General Consumer Council supported the development of the gas industry in Northern Ireland, Phoenix should work urgently with OFREG "to agree an open, transparent and sustainable pricing policy".

Phoenix chief executive Peter Dixon said that while any increase was unwelcome his company had took "specific care to ensure that those consumers traditionally in fuel poverty are still able to affordably heat their homes, even after this increase".

(MB)

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