Firmus customers hit by 8.8% gas price hike in Northern Ireland
The 85,000 Firmus Energy gas customers in Northern Ireland are facing a hike in their bills from next month.
It comes just days after rival SSE Airtricity announced it would also be raising prices by 7.8%.
Firmus tariff prices in the Greater Belfast area will increase by 8.8% from April 16.
The Consumer Council said Firmus customers in Greater Belfast will see a typical bill increase by £45.
From April 5, Firmus customers in the Ten Towns network area will see a price increase of 6.8%. This covers Londonderry, Limavady, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Newry, Craigavon, Antrim, Banbridge and Armagh.
The Consumer Council described the increases as "unwelcome news".
It said it means the typical Firmus annual bill in the Ten Towns will increase by £39 per year to £619.
In Greater Belfast, the average bill will rise from £516 to £561 per year for Pay As You Go customers.
This compares to £534 for regulated SSE Airtricity customers in Greater Belfast, the watchdog said. It added that the difference is mainly due to Firmus recovering a previous discount on the tariff which was designed to encourage the take up of natural gas in the early days of its roll-out in the Ten Towns.
The Utility Regulator has now determined that this additional cost will be paid off by consumers by December 2019.
Michael Scott, managing director of Firmus Energy, said: "We work hard to keep our tariffs as low as possible, to offer price stability for customers and give them confidence in natural gas.
"The decision to raise our tariffs is regrettable and never easy. However, in this instance the cost of bringing natural gas to our customers has increased and our price rise has been unavoidable.
"Our pricing team has engaged extensively with the Utility Regulator, the Department for the Economy and the Consumer Council in relation to our regulated tariff in the Ten Towns area. We keep tariffs under continual review to ensure we bring the best possible prices to our customers."