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Consumer body warns of difficult winter ahead as energy price rises announced

'I am angry and fearful on behalf of Northern Ireland consumers'

The Consumer Council has warned of a “very serious crisis this winter” after SSE Airtricity today announced increases in its gas and electricity prices.

The energy company has said electricity prices will rise by 35.5 per cent, effective from Saturday, October 1.

This will see electricity bills for an average household increase to around £1,356 per year.

Gas customers will also see an increase of 28.4 per cent, also effective from October 1.

This will impact around 188,000 domestic gas customers throughout the west and Greater Belfast  networks, and about 4,600 commercial customers.

It means that the yearly gas bill of a typical household with a credit meter will rise by about £351 per year. Those customers with a prepayment gas meter (PAYG) will see their typical costs increase by around £348 per year.

Meanwhile, the UK government has confirmed it will provide £400 energy bill discounts in Northern Ireland, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said.

Peter McClenaghan, director of infrastructure and sustainability at the Consumer Council said: “We are facing into a very serious crisis this winter and I am angry and fearful on behalf of Northern Ireland consumers.

“Already many of our households are at the brink. … This is a global problem, the price of the gas we import is outside the control of local companies, but consumers require a lot more local support than has been offered to date.

“The £400 Energy Support Scheme promised to all households in NI by the Chancellor will be a help, but it will not be nearly enough as a typical gas consuming household will be paying out over £1,000 more for energy this winter than last.

“We encourage anyone who is struggling to pay their energy bills or to top up their meter, to contact their supplier directly for help and information. We also encourage consumers to think about ways they can reduce their energy costs through energy efficiency and, if you can, put some extra money aside for energy costs this winter.”

Peter continued: “In the short term, the Consumer Council has been working in collaboration with Government departments, the Utility Regulator, energy suppliers and third sector organisations who have been working hard to try to put in place immediate support and advice to help those in energy crisis this winter and beyond.

“In the longer term, this situation shows the importance of the Department for the Economy’s Energy Strategy Action Plan, that aims to tackle affordability and move us away from our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Consumers can also get in touch with the Consumer Council for free independent advice by calling Freephone 0800 121 6022, emailing contact@consumercouncil.org.uk or visiting www.consumercouncil.org.uk.

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