AN investigation by a Northumberland MP into heating oil prices has uncovered what he believes is a lack of local competition.
Guy Opperman’s work looking at providers in his Hexham constituency, which includes Ponteland, found that ten heating oil providers in the area are owned by just one company.
This leaves just five independent competitors in the market, effectively reduced down to three once distance restriction is taken into account.
DCC plc, also known as GB Oils, owns most of its former competitors and it has recently added F Peart and Brogan to the list – which already includes EMO, CPL Petroleum and Scottish Fuels.
The investigation was launched after national figures revealed that the average price of home heating oil has soared in recent months, going up by more than 20p between November and December.
Mr Opperman said: “What worries me most is that if there isn’t a strong local market with competition then it becomes much easier for companies to hike up prices without the fear of losing business, which could mean higher prices for local residents.
“At the moment costs are getting out of control. Fuel is a necessity not a luxury and the prices we are seeing at the moment are stretching many people beyond their means.
“Just last week I filled my own tank and was shocked at the cost compared to what I paid last year. Not only is the UK average of around 76p per litre too high but prices vary wildly.”
The MP recently wrote a letter to Energy Minister Chris Huhne asking for help for local families struggling to pay their fuel bills this winter.
The Office of Fair Trading has said that it is keeping an eye on home heating oil prices across the UK.