21st January 2011


Concern in rural areas at 50% price hike

Dear Sir,

We all know the cost of fuel is going up, we see it at the petrol pump every week; as petrol prices rise so to does the cost of driving. Yet for many residents across the South West these increases in the cost of fuel are having a far more concerning effect. Between November and December this year the cost of home heating oil rose by 50%.

Across the country nearly 1.5million people rely on heating oil to warm their homes, most of them concentrated in rural areas, with the South West of England having one of the highest levels of dependence in the UK. If prices continue to rise then residents across the region, in addition to being cold, could find themselves slipping into fuel poverty.

I know that there have been recent calls from UK MPs for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate this market as there are alarming allegations from consumers over whether operators were acting as cartels to fix prices. The UK, however, was not the only country to see domestic heating oil price hikes; there were also significant rises in Ireland.  If this appears to be a phenomenon working across borders in other countries the EU Competition Commission can investigate.   

I want your readers to know that British MEPs have already raised this with the Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia. In 2012 he will be looking at European Energy markets and he needs to remember that different countries rely on different energy mixes not forgetting the large numbers of people who live in rural areas. We cannot allow sharp trading practices to harm families who are struggling to heat their homes.

Ashley Fox MEP
South West of England & Gibraltar


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