Belfast Telegraph

MLA puts heat on Firmus over 35% hike in gas prices

By Claire McNeilly

Gas supplier Firmus Energy has been accused of a lack of transparency over pricing by Ulster Unionist economy spokesman Mike Nesbitt after it emerged the company is to raise prices by over a third in the greater Belfast area.

The Strangford MLA said he would be bringing his concerns to the Utility Regulator.

Recently the firm announced that it has ended its summer price freeze and will increase tariffs by over 35% from October 1.

Mr Nesbitt said Firmus hadn't been transparent about the price increase, after the company said yesterday it was keeping its prices below those of Phoenix without mentioning the price hike.

Priced at 4.4p per unit, users in Belfast pay more for their gas than clients in 10 towns across Northern Ireland, where a unit costs 4.1p. The company said this discrepancy arises because it uses "different trading models" for "very separate markets".

Mr Nesbitt has demanded clarity from the company over this contentious position. "As Firmus has now indicated it will operate two different tariffs depending on where people live, I would like to know why," he said.

"The fact Firmus issued a three-page Press release that failed to mention a 35% price rise in the cost of its gas in greater Belfast has undermined my trust in the company, so I will also be pursuing the matter with the Regulator and Department of Enterprise."

This month Firmus Energy said it would increase its prices in towns outside Belfast by 28.4% from October 1.

Firmus is the sole provider of natural gas to households in 10 towns across Northern Ireland.

It has around 8,500 customers in the greater Belfast area while Phoenix Gas has more than 130,000. Phoenix said it was holding prices for customers in greater Belfast.

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