High heating oil prices trigger investigationOffice of Fair Trading to study ‘off-grid’ market

26 January 2011

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The Office of Fair Trading will investigate whether the energy market is working for consumers who are not connected to the main gas grid, and therefore must rely on energy sources such as heating oil and LPG.

The investigation will be carried out earlier than previously planned ‘in light of increasing public concern about aspects of the market’, according to the OFT.

Which? energy expert Sylvia Baron says: ‘This investigation is good news for consumers who rely on heating oil and have seen prices rocket over the winter.

‘However, the OFT doesn’t expect to conclude the study until autumn this year, so it may be some time until any real action will be taken to ensure consumers are getting a fair deal.’

Heating oil and LPG

As well as looking at the market for heating oil and LPG (liquid petroleum gas), the OFT will also look at consumers who rely on renewable energy sources, such as solar panels.

OFT senior director of infrastructure Heather Clayton said: ‘Two and a half million people rely on off-grid energy and it is vital that the markets that supply them function as well as they possibly can.

‘We will be taking both competition and consumer issues into account through this comprehensive look at the market.’

Energy investigation

The OFT has proposed a study which will cover the whole of the UK and consider a range of themes including:

  • how well competition provides choice for consumers at a local and regional level
  • whether the T&Cs of suppliers are fair and provide customers with clear information
  • what the experience of customers has been (the OFT wants to survey off-grid users).

The OFT is currently consulting on these proposals and expects to confirm the scope of the study in March this year.

It says it will be working closely with a number of other organisations, including energy industry regulator Ofgem, Trading Standards and the Department of Energy and Climate Change to ‘ensure all concerns raised are addressed by the organisation best suited to do so’.

If you are not connected to the main gas grid and are thinking about your renewable energy options, you may be interested in our guides on how to buy solar panels, installing a wind turbine and ground source heat pumps explained.

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