In January this year, the OFT began its study into the supply of energy to consumers who are not connected to the main gas grid. It investigated whether the market is working for ‘off-grid’ energy consumers who use sources such as heating oil, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and renewable energy sources like solar panels.
Arlene Foster said: “Today’s report by The Office of Fair Trading confirms that genuine competition exists within Northern Ireland’s domestic heating oil market and is working well for consumers. The report highlights that consumers can choose the best price from at least 10 suppliers in each postcode area across Northern Ireland.
“It also recognises that over 90% of the cost of home heating oil is outside the control of local distributors and consumers.
“The report clearly states that retail and wholesale heating oil prices in recent years have been lower in Northern Ireland than other parts of the UK. Local competition ensures that all consumers are able to choose between suppliers competing on price and service. This is particularly important as heating oil is the most common used domestic heating fuel in Northern Ireland.
“The report goes on to state that regulation of a competitive energy market such as heating oil would not significantly impact on the overall price. This is clearly different from gas which, unlike heating oil, is not a mature market and is supplied by a small number of companies.”
The Minister urged householders to plan ahead and shop around when purchasing heating fuels.
Arlene Foster concluded: “I encourage companies to work to ensure that pre-payment schemes such as Pay-Point are available to customers who need to budget carefully. I also urge the NI Oil Federation to continue to work on a voluntary code of practice to help consumers receive the best service possible and reassure customers that they are getting a fair deal.
“Consumers should not use 20 litre drums as a main source of their heating oil supply. However, the OFT recognise that these containers continue to be one of a number of choices open to consumers.”