3:31pm Friday 22nd March 2013
© Press Association 2013
Households which are not on the mains gas network should be given more consumer protection to save them from fuel poverty, a parliamentary report has recommended.
A typical off-gas grid family faces fuel bills up to 120% higher than a mains gas user, and some 32% are classed as being in fuel poverty, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) found after a six-month inquiry on the issue.
The MPs called for the estimated four million UK households - 15% of the total population - who are off-gas grid to be given the same level of consumer protection as mains users and be covered by the same regulator.
And they said that a Government minister should be given specific responsibility for the sector.
Among the report's recommendations was a call for off-gas grid pensioners to be paid their winter fuel payment early to allow them to buy heating oil in the summer and autumn, when prices are lower.
APPG co-chairwoman Therese Coffey said: "If you live off the gas grid, the chances are your energy efficiency will be worse, your fuel bills may be over twice as high, and you are more likely to be in fuel poverty. Yet you will not enjoy the consumer protection that mains gas users do and vulnerable households suffer. We think that needs to change."
Her fellow co-chairwoman Pat Glass said that finding companies able to deliver heating oil can be "a real problem" in areas like her North West Durham constituency.
The report, to be formally launched at Westminster on March 25, called for the Office of Fair Trading to repeat a study to map the locations of suppliers in order to identify areas where provision is difficult.
And it urged the Government to legislate for a maximum resale price for heating fuels, to prevent park home site owners from profiting from their monopoly on energy supply to residents.
Ms Glass said: "With off-gas grid prices rocketing, we also hope the Government will look at making off-gas grid heating more affordable, particularly for vulnerable people."
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group