The Consumer Council is threatening to bring a “super complaint” against the oil industry after it emerged 500,000 Northern Ireland households are paying over 50% more for heating oil compared to last year.
Shocking statistics revealed by the consumer watchdog show that despite the price of oil crashing to around $58 a barrel consumers are being asked to pay more.
According to the Consumer Council the last time crude oil was at this week’s price consumers paid on average £275 to fill a 900 litre oil tank.
Today, they are paying £416 — a staggering 51% more.
The Consumer Council is now demanding that oil companies provide evidence as to why households are paying so much.
If they don’t the watchdog said it will consider referring the matter to the Office of Fair Trading using its super complaint status. The process was set up with the aim of strengthening the voice of consumers.
They are made when it is considered that there is any market feature, or combination of features, such as the structure of a market or the conduct of those operating within it, that appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers.
Steve Costello, chairman of the Consumer Council, said: “Seven in 10 homes here depend on oil to heat their homes.
“That’s nearly 500,000 households at the mercy of oil companies and prices that seem to go up like a rocket and down like a feather.
“Consumers are paying a massive 51% more to fill their tank than they did last year.
“The oil industry must provide evidence as to why we are paying so much.”
Prices of home heating oil also began to rise this week after declining over a number of months.
According to www.cheapest oil.co.uk the price of home heating oil peaked in the summer and since then the price has slowly dropped.
However, at the end of October prices again started to rise.
David Blevings from the Oil Promotion Federation said that prices have dropped in the last four months.
“Home heat prices have fallen by over 25% since July 2008 and this is to be welcomed at the start of the heating season,” he said.
“Prices are showing a slight rise this week due to increases passed on to distributors and there could well be more variations this winter due to a number of factors including global oil demand, availability of refined product and the strength of the dollar.
“While crude price movements can be an indicator of trends there is no direct correlation with retail prices.”
But Mr Costello added that consumers will no longer accept at “face value vague explanations” from the oil industry about currency exchange rates and an increase in demand.
“We will also publish weekly updates about the cheapest, dearest and average prices across Northern Ireland.”
For more information visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk