Gas ruling’s effect on local consumers

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A RULING by the Competition Commission on Phoenix Natural Gas (PNG) will have an impact on customers in the Newtownabbey and Greater Belfast areas, according to the Consumer Council.

Speaking after news of the ruling was made public, Antoinette McKeown, the CEO of the Consumer Council, explained: “The Utility Regulator and PNG could not reach agreement about the price control, which is why the matter was referred to the Competition Commission. The Consumer Council was invited to present oral evidence to the Competition Commission and we were pleased to be able to give consumers in NI a strong and independent voice, as it is important that the consumer view is given equal weight to the business sector in the consideration of the price controls.

“The Competition Commission ruling means that consumers’ bills will be £11 more a year now – although PNG had originally sought an increase of £24 per year from the Utility Regulator. However, had the Competition Commission backed the Utility Regulator’s position consumer’s bills would have dropped by £1 per year. We are therefore disappointed with this outcome.”

She added: “The inquiry was a complex one in which the Competition Commission looked at the past conduct of the regulator and PNG while also considering future actions. It is vital that the interest of consumers is balanced against the interest of shareholders in PNG.

“The Consumer Council will now review the detail of the judgment and continue to engage with the Utility Regulator and PNG in the interest of consumers in NI.”