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Belfast gas customers see bills jump £250 in a year

Gary McDonald Business Editor

AROUND 50,000 customers of firmus energy in the Greater Belfast area will be hit with an eye-watering 33 per cent hike in their gas bills from October 22, which the company is blaming on a 200 per cent increase in global commodity prices.

It means average bills will go up by £3.51 a week, or £182 a year, which follows a 14 per cent rise imposed by firmus in April.

And that equates to a combined £250 uplift on bills for hard-pressed consumers.

The areas impacted are Belfast city, Lisburn, Bangor, Holywood, Donaghadee, Larne, Groomsport, Millisle, Newtownards, Carryduff, Comber, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, and East Down.

The increase is broadly similar to that for Ten Towns customers, announced earlier this month.

A 35 per cent hike on its mainly rural network put £182 a year on the the average bill, or nearly £3.50 a week, and brings prices back to 2018 levels.

It's the latest in a number of double-digit percentage bill increases for household heating and lighting.

SSE Airtricity, which is firmus's competitor supplier in Greater Belfast, announced a price rise of 22 per cent.

Michael Scott, managing director of firmus energy, said: “We're very sorry to make this announcement to customers, but given the huge increases in the cost of purchasing natural gas on the global markets, which have been well publicised in recent weeks, it is simply unavoidable, as these costs are totally beyond our control.”

He added: “Any increase is never welcome, and we know this will come at a particularly difficult time for many. But we are fully committed to working with consumer bodies to best support our customers, especially in the forthcoming winter months.”

The NI Consumer Council's head of energy policy Raymond Gormley said: “While this price increase was expected, it makes it no less challenging for household budgets to absorb and follows well-publicised rises in electricity, grocery, and fuel costs.

“Gas consumers in the Belfast area do have the opportunity to switch supplier, and we would encourage them to check they have the best deal before October 21 when the opt-out period ends.

“Also, consumers who are struggling with their energy bills should contact their supplier directly for help and information.”

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