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16th July 2004

CONSUMER FEARS EASED AS GAS PRICE HIKE IS WITHDRAWN

<p>The General Consumer Council has today welcomed Phoenix Natural Gas’ (PNG) announcement that it has withdrawn the suspended 20 per cent increase in the price of gas announced in April 2004. The announcement follows an agreement on wholesale gas prices with Centrica, PNG’s gas supplier.</p>

Steve Costello, Chairman of the Council said: “Consumers can rest easier knowing that the 20 per cent increase no longer hangs over them. Natural gas provides a good fuel choice for Northern Ireland consumers and this announcement is a very welcome step in restoring consumer confidence in gas.

“The Council acknowledges the efforts of all parties behind this deal including PNG and Centrica, but also the Minister, Barry Gardiner, local politicians, the Energy Authority and importantly, consumers and their representatives who made their collective voice heard.

However, more work needs to be done to get a long-term deal that benefits consumers and the industry. Looking to the immediate future, Eleanor Gill continued: “Consumers' gas bills are made up of two parts - about half of the bill is tied to wholesale gas costs which can go up and down. The first half of the deal is now in place. The second part of the bill can be regulated and controlled, and it is important that PNG completes negotiations with NIAER (the regulator) to give certainty to consumers on a long-term price commitment.

“We appreciate that in line with world energy costs, gas prices may have to go up in the future. However, price shocks, such as that which almost hit home in April, are not good for customers or the industry.

“As the energy consumer representative body, we will monitor progress closely to ensure that consumers pay a fair and sustainable price for their gas now and in the future.”

 

  1. General Consumer Council media contact: Susie Brown, telephone, 028 9067 4807 or e-mail, susie.brown@gccni.org.uk
  2. The General 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 electricity, natural gas, coal and passenger transport.
  3. For more information, visit our website at www.gccni.org.uk
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