Heating oil users have been left out in the cold - politically and literally - as consideration has been given to limiting the impact of the rising costs of gas and electricity.
Now SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has written to the UK Government calling for the heating oil industry to be regulated in order to better protect rural and island households.
As heating oil is not currently subject to the same kind of regulation, including price caps, as gas and electricity, many off-gas-grid consumers in the Western Isles have already had to face steep increases in their heating bills even before the outburst of publicity over Ofgem’s April energy price cap hike.
In his letter to the UK Minister for Consumers, Allan pointed out that the Office of Fair Trading (now the Competition and Market Authority) last investigated the regulation of the off-gas-grid market back in 2011, and that the energy market and cost of living as a whole have shifted considerably since then.
Allan also noted that while most off-grid households in the UK may have a choice of heating oil suppliers, there is a significant proportion who do not, particularly in northern and island communities. These households could greatly benefit from the introduction of a price cap and better regulation on heating oil, and the Western Isles’ MSP has requested a meeting with the UK Government Minister to discuss this issue in depth.
Allan said:“While the Scottish Government can do what it can to support those on the lowest incomes who are struggling with their soaring heating bills, competition law and consumer protection, as well as energy, are unfortunately still policy areas reserved to the UK Government.
“While the UK Government has previously indicated that it has no plans to regulate the sector, I would urge the Minister to engage anew with both UKIFDA and rural heating oil consumers in this matter. The cost of living continues to rise across the board, and the heating oil industry’s continued lack of regulation coupled with the complete absence of supplier choice in places like the Western Isles is, in my view, a recipe for disaster.”