20th April 2000


<p>The General Consumer Council today issued a warning following a meeting with oil industry chiefs over claims that oil was cheaper and safer than other fuels.</p>

This was prompted by a number of adverts and statements that the Council considered to be misleading. Examples were: Current claims that oil is cheaper - despite the fact that consumers have seen prices rise by 32%* in the past 6 months so that it is no longer the cheapest fuel, Misuse of statistics to claim that oil is safer than mains gas. In fact, safety depends on the heating system being installed, used and maintained properly rather than the type of fuel. Joan Whiteside, Chairman of the Consumer Council said: “These claims have to be corrected so that competition is fair and reasonable. The Council welcomes competition in the home heating market but the public must have accurate information. We will continue to watch closely the advertising of all fuels.” The Council advises anyone wanting to know about the benefits of different fuels to contact their local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre for free and independent advice. They can be contacted on the freephone number 0800 512 012. - ENDS - Notes for Editors: 1. Price The Council criticised advertising that oil is cheaper by some oil companies on billboards, websites and in the Yellow Pages. Oil is not the cheapest fuel. It has risen by 32 %* since September 1999, taking it well above the cost of natural gas, which has not changed. *The General Consumer Council’s Fuel Price Monitor shows that, taking an average of 5 suppliers, the price of heating oil in September 1999 was £125.63 for 900 litres compared with £165.22 in April 2000. 2. Safety The Oil Promotion Federation (OPF) had produced a leaflet using Home Office Fire Statistics for 1998 and claiming that this illustrated “the safety of oil in the domestic situation in Great Britain.” The figures appeared to show that there were five times as many incidents involving gas than oil. The Council criticised this as a serious misuse of the figures because it completely ignored market share. In GB, oil has about 3% share of the market compared with about 80% for natural gas. Converted to a ratio to show incidents per 100,000 homes, the picture is very different. 3. For further information or interviews contact Wesley Henderson at the General Consumer Council on 028 9067 2488.