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Phoenix price hike is an abuse of its monoploy position - Mitchel McLaughlin MLA

19 January, 2006

Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA has described the latest price hike by Phoenix Gas as a severe blow to gas customers.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"The announcement by Phoenix Natural Gas that it is to increase prices by a further 17.3 per cent means that consumers have been hit with a massive 52% increase in the last four months adding approximately £200 to household gas bills.

"Phoenix cannot be allowed to blame this massive increase on the prevailing wholesale gas prices. This increase will mean that Phoenix customers in the 6 Counties will be paying nearly two thirds more than customers in Britain and over 20% more than those in the rest of Ireland.

"This will create particular difficulties for those already experiencing fuel poverty and people on fixed incomes. The North of Ireland already has the highest levels of fuel poverty in Britain and Ireland as it stands and today's increase will only exacerbate that intolerable situation.

"At the time of its takeover of Phoenix by Terra Firma in October last year I queried the new owners commitment to keep gas prices down. At that time, Phoenix stated: 'Terra Firma's access to capital resources will enable us to accelerate and deepen our outreach to customers and maintain attractive and competitive prices.' If a 52% increase in four months is Terra Firma's idea of attractive and competitive pricing then I believe it is an abuse of its monopoly position.

"The Direct Rule Minister must act to cushion this blow by making available assistance for those affected to take advantage of energy efficiency measures in their homes to minimise the burden that this will impose." ENDS

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