Weak Regulation Has Failed The Consumer – Consumer Council
Friday 3 August 2012
Following the news that the Competition Commission has ruled that the Utility Regulator was not justified in attempting to place a new price control on Phoenix Gas, the CEO of the Consumer Council Antoinette McKeown has said that weak regulation has failed the consumer but has welcomed the fact that the Competition Commission has taken into account considerations put forward by the Consumer Council in making their decision.
“Whilst this is an interim decision from the Competition Commission, the outcome is clear – as a result customers will be paying higher charges than they would have been had the Utility Regulator taken a different decision. These higher charges will last until 2046. Whilst this does not help consumers today, the Consumer Councils recognises the fact that the Competition Commission took into account the benefits of further investment in the gas network and the risk of damaging investor confidence in reaching their decision.”
“The Consumer Council was the only 3rd party body which was invited to make a submission to the Competition Commission at a third party hearing and we asked that two important points for consumers would form part of the decision making process. We asked that Competition Commission would weigh up the implications of their decision on the future investment in regulated utility infrastructure in NI and expansion of the gas network and that the Competition Commission consider to what extent is the Regulator’s decision on outperformance creating regulatory uncertainty in Northern Ireland.”
“The Consumer Council are pleased that the Competition Commission gave due consideration to our points in their decision making.”
“The Consumer Council will be looking to Phoenix Natural Gas for guarantees that this decision will be used for the expansion and improvement of the gas network, providing consumer choice and potentially lifting more people of fuel poverty.”
“The Consumer Council also welcomes the recognition by the Competition Commission that consumers were unknowingly disadvantaged by a weak regulatory process but we are disappointed that the Competition Commission has decided given all the evidence that they cannot redress the balance between consumers and Phoenix Natural Gas.”
“Lessons must be learned from this. Consumers in Northern Ireland must never see a repeat of the weakness in regulation that occurred in 2007 that resulted in a lack of certainty regarding decisions that would affect the price they would pay for gas into the future.”
“The Consumer Council believes that it is right that information regarding the historically weak regulation of the gas network has now been put in to public domain as we have raised concerns regarding lack of transparency. As the weaknesses of the system have been highlighted there is now potential for these weaknesses to be addressed to the benefit of the consumer.”
- Consumer Council media contact: Suzanne Collins telephone, 028 90674807 or 07799032203 or e-mail, email@example.com
- The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal and water.
- For more information, visit our website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk