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Conservatives raise home heating oil prices with commission

Monday, 10th January 2011

Concern in rural areas at 50% price hike

Roger Helmer, Conservative MEP for the East Midlands, is joining fellow Conservatives in the European Parliament in calling on the Commission to address consumer concerns regarding hikes in domestic heating oil prices.

This follows recent calls from UK MPs for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate this market.

Roger said,

"In my constituency of the East Midlands nearly a quarter of households do not have access to mains gas. They rely on home heating oil to keep them warm. Between November and December this year we saw a rise of 50% in the costs of home heating oil. Other parts of the UK have seen even larger rises. Many, in addition to being cold, are concerned that they could slip into fuel poverty if prices continue to show such huge fluctuations.

I know that suppliers have had to struggle with the enormously difficult conditions of the cold spell to meet very high demand, but there are worrying suggestions that operators may be colluding in price setting and acting as a cartel to raise prices. Consumers deserve to know that these allegations are being treated seriously.

It is right that this should be looked into first by the UKs own Office of Fair Trading, but price rises were also very significant in Ireland. If this turns out to be a phenomenon working across borders in other EU countries, the Commission should investigate. At the very least they should keep a close eye on this market.

This year Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia plans to look at European Energy markets. He must remember that different countries rely on different energy mixes and not forget the needs of the large numbers of people who live in rural area without access to gas.