Off-grid gas users getting raw deal, says Bute MP

An inquiry report by an all-party group of MPs has called for households off the gas grid to be given the same consumer protection as mains users.

The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on off-gas grid today published its report on the high costs and high levels of fuel poverty endured by the four million off-gas grid households across the country - and found that a typical off-gas grid family faces bills 60-120 per cent higher than those on mains gas, and that 32 per cent of such households are classified as ‘fuel poor’.

The MPs’ report has made a number of recommendations, including extending the same level of consumer protection to off-gas grid households as exists for those on mains gas. They also call for the Office of Fair Trading to redo its inquiry as they felt the methodology was highly flawed.

Further recommendations include earlier payment of the Winter Fuel Payment to allow off-gas grid pensioners to buy more heating oil in the summer and autumn to take advantage of cheaper prices, as well as a dedicated Government minister.

Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid, the secretary of the APPG, said: “Heating bills for people without mains gas are far too high and action is needed to bring them down.

“I was astonished when the recent Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report into the off-gas grid market claimed that the whole of the Highlands and Islands, apart from a few small places, had between four and seven suppliers and so the market was working properly.

“This is clearly not the case. The OFT must carry out this study again and do it properly the next time.

“The Government should also give people living off the gas grid the same degree of consumer protection as mains gas and electricity customers by making Ofgem the regulator for this sector as well as for mains gas and electricity consumers.”