Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Dreaded credit crunch has less bite, thanks to Price Watch

You are walking around with more money in your pocket today thanks to Price Watch.



You are getting a better deal on your groceries, you are paying less for your fuel and, most importantly, the chances of being ripped off have fallen dramatically.

And all this on the back of the worst financial crisis the world has seen for decades.

That’s because the intense scrutiny given to the issues highlighted in our campaign over the last 40 days is now beginning to bear fruit.

And it’s all down to our readers who have been writing, emailing and phoning in their thousands, with their questions, worries and concerns; all of which we have endeavoured to follow up.

We know how precious your pennies and pounds are and that’s why we’re not resting on our laurels — and why we will continue to fight your corner against unfair pricing practices.

Over the last six weeks, there have already been some notable successes.

Fuel prices are now cheaper than they have been for over a year. Indeed, from today, drivers will be able to reap the benefits of the latest round in the fierce supermarket price war, after petrol plummeted to a low of 94.9p a litre and diesel fell to 107.9p at all three of our major retailers.

Independent garages have also joined in the fray, with smaller outlets offering competitive prices. For example, one reader contacted us to say that Rathcoole Filling Station in Newtownabbey was yesterday selling unleaded at 95p and diesel at 107.9p.

Groceries are still expensive, but the rate of increase has fallen by almost 14% since its August peak and the price of basic foodstuffs have finally begun to drop for the first time since January.

The cost of home heating oil also plummeted by up to 24% in just six weeks — with hopes of further falls in the run up to Christmas.

An independent review is currently underway regarding the recent 33.3% hike in electricity, after doubts were raised as to its sheer level.

And, just last night, an investigation into the 19.2% rise in Phoenix Gas was also announced.

Both probes come after our campaign highlighted consumers’ objections to the severe price increases.

One of Price Watch’s biggest achievements has been making the public aware of discrepancies in fuel prices — not only between here and the rest of the UK, but within Northern Ireland itself.

Six weeks ago, when the campaign was launched, petrol cost as much as £1.20 a litre at some forecourts, while certain garages were charging a whopping £1.35 for diesel.

There was also the scenario where two of our major retailers were charging EIGHT different tariffs between them — with Tesco responsible for five and Sainsbury’s for three.

Only Asda was offering pricing parity for drivers across the province.

The shocking revelation saw Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Nigel Dodds get behind our campaign, by demanding that retailers put an end to the way motorists here are charged in what is tantamount to a fuel price postcode lottery.

Mr Dodds wrote to the bosses of both supermarkets asking them to clarify why drivers are being charged varying rates for fuel depending on geographical location. He also raised the issue of regional pricing policies in the House of Commons.

His actions came after the AA October Fuel Report revealed that Northern Ireland motorists are paying up to 1.5p more per litre for unleaded and diesel than anywhere else in the UK.

The news sparked a fierce supermarket price war in which Northern Ireland’s ‘Big Three’ slashed their tariffs dramatically.

And, for the first time ever, Sainsbury’s took the dramatic step of charging a uniform price for fuel across all seven of its Northern Ireland filling stations.

Tesco dropped its prices at nine out of its 12 forecourts, but remains the only major supermarket now charging Ulster customers two different tariffs for unleaded and diesel.

The fight continues.

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