Regarding the recent letters on energy costs, both Phoenix Gas and NIE are two minor parts of two huge and separate private equity groups.
That Phoenix gas reduced prices by 22% earlier this year with a further reduction of 19% next month appears to be good news. However, UK wholesale gas prices have declined by 70% since the peak prices of September 2008.
It remains daunting for consumers to take a meter reading and calculate their usage/costs.
Even though gas meter boxes are externally accessible, readings are done only once per year, so how Phoenix Gas can calculate bills with falling prices remains a mystery.
At this time of year, consumers who pay by monthly direct debit could have been in surplus credit for nearly six months and Phoenix is thus also obtaining interest free loans. Regarding NIE, this company was tied to very expensive and possibly unnecessary contract from Ballylumford gas-fired power station.
Premier Power, the owners of this station, simply pass on their charges and make a profit of nearly £1m-per-week.
Consequently, in the captive Northern Ireland energy market, supplier decision-makers can so easily collude in a manner that maintains high prices, but renders regulators and consumers somewhat powerless.