Office of Fair Trading Wants to Hear from YOU!

After a brief period of consultation and scoping, the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) is inviting heating oil consumers (and other off-grid customers) to share their experiences.

The off-grid energy study, formally launched on 15 March 2011 and due to be published in October 2011, aims to investigate whether the 3.5M households not connected to the national gas network have a competitive market to source their fuel from. Heating oil is a primary focus of the study.

Key issues you can raise as a consumer:

  • How many suppliers are in your area, and whether you believe these suppliers to be working independently.
  • Have you received a fair and efficient service from your oil supplier(s)?
  • What terms and conditions do you need to sign up to?
  • What price movements have you personally experienced?
  • Have you reduced your dependency on fossil fuels by installing a heat source based on renewable energy? If not, what is stopping you?
  • Have you switched to electricity as your heat source, or used it to supplement your heating?
  • What improvements can you suggest?
You have until 27 May 2011 to post your experiences to the OFT. Please also post your experiences as a comment on this page; we'd love to hear from you!

For more information on the scope of the study and how to submit your information, read the OFT's press release: OFT launches off-grid energy study. You may also want to read the Off-Grid Energy Market Study Statement of Scope [PDF doc].

View the event info page


9 Comments

by Alec Rice on 23 May 2011 Reply
Hi I work for an energy conservation charity (Community Energy Plus) in Cornwall www.cep.org.uk As part of my role to help challenge the problems of fuel poverty I am looking at us setting up a fuel buying group/consortium here in Cornwall and would welcome any advice or guidance people can give me. Its quite shocking not just to see the prices but also the amount of companies that are supposedly independent but owned by another. alec@cep.org.uk
by Ian bainbridge on 20 May 2011 Reply
Like many others who have posted comments, even after shopping around, we experienced a price-hike from 45p/litre in June 2010 to 90p/litre this last winter. Only 100% increase!! As I pointed out in a letter to my MP,there would be revolution if gas/electric prices doubled in this way. Domestic oil consumers deserve protection from this sort of profiteering by suppliers. The OFT must press for a return to sensible prices (and I don't mean 60p/litre)then monitor and set tight limits to price increases.
by Lee on 09 May 2011 Reply
Before the winter, heating oil was around 40p per litre. The greedy suppliers profiteered over the really bad weather and hiked prices up over 100%.Some charging as much as 90p per litre!!! It has now come down, but why have they remained at 60p per litre, 50% more than before the bad weather, when the Oil is much lower now. It is sheer greed by the Oil suppliers who are not monitored in any way. Gas/Electricity would not dare double their energy charges.

People, who have to use Oil, can barely afford to heat their homes as it is. It is outrageous, these Suppliers can do just want they like with no thought to the homeowner.

on 02 May 2011 Reply
There is no reason for the hike in kerosene.At around 20p/Litre in 2004-5 the situation soon started to get out of control,as it quickly rose to 32-35p that winter and has never really settled back after that time.

The OFT may have also noticed that gas suppliers also followed suit this time even though the wholesale price of gas was never an issue.

Heating oil suppliers and investors should be banned from investing in future prices of Kerosene as this market is far to sensitive.

They have now settled the price per Litre at around 60p! exactly what they set out to do in the first place.Holding Kerosene at this price will ensure they will more than be capable of paying back any fines they will face when acase brouht against them by the OFT is successful.

Shame on you suppliers out there we will never forget what your greed!!!!

by louise on 27 April 2011 Reply
We have run out of oil as we cant afford the last £500 bill, we have no heat or hot water and no other company will sell us any oil. I have 4 children and my oven also runs on oil. this isnt right am trying to pay but I cant be left like this surely.

by Kerry on 13 April 2011 Reply
I sent this to the OFT

My wife an I have just moved house to a newly renovated old cottage circa 1820's, and have spent a considerable sum 25k on the central heating system for the house as well as spending over 3k on insulation in the property. We have UFH, very efficent control systems, a thermal store which we heat via a wood burner and an oil system boiler (Grant Eco) and hope to install solar thermal at a later date. We're lucky in that we both have good jobs, but the price of fuel oil for many is crippling. So I have some comments.

We moved from another property in the village which is about half the size. This also had oil CH which we had installed around 6-7 years ago, as the property is smaller we installed a combi boiler (Worchester bosch) The first time I filled the tank I paid 18p/l I ordered oil yesterday and paid 61p/l !!! So that's an increase of over 300%

As the village has restricted access we are limited on what suppliers will deliver some will only deliver in a "Tiny Tanker" for which you'll pay at least 5p/l extra.

Short term fluctuations in pricing can be extreme. We filled our tank for the first time in November and paid 46p/l

Group Oil purchase schemes don't give that big a discount.

I have found that we are restricted on what suppliers will deliver to us due to access issues. But pricing does seems to be competitive between suppliers and it does help to shop around. It is easier to shop around by using the internet but this doesn't really help those not online or the elderly. There is no real differance in the services offered by each supplier. Although pricing is competative this is within very narrow price scales we're talking a few p per l

Levels of service from the two companies we have used over the years I have always found to be good, and I have never had an issue with supply. I placed an order Monday of this week and oil was delivered today (Wednesday).

We have considered putting an economy7 electric heating coil in our thermal store. This will probably cost around 300 if the price of oils stays at current levels we might consider this before next winter.

Off-Grid also means we suffer a penalty in that we can't get duel fuel tariffs so we pay more for our electricity.

As we're only been in the property since January we've don't really know what our consumption levels will be. But my first thoughts are we are consuming about the same as we did in our old property, which is good as our new house is over double the size. This is due to the amount of insulation we have installed, more efficient boiler and the use of the wood burner. 1000/l should last us around 10-12 months meaning we will have spent over 600 just for heating and hot water. This would be a horrendous sum for an OAP on a small income who requires more heat than we do.

Although we have a very efficient wood burner the cost of seasoned hard wood logs is also expensive. Unless you scavenge for wood it is expensive to use wood for heating.

The infrastructure costs of oil are far greater than for gas. Oil boilers cost more to buy, to install to service and to repair, you also have the added cost of the tank.

Planning issues STILL surround alternative fuel sources. We would like solar thermal and maybe PV as our house is south facing and gets plenty of sun. But as we're in a conservation area we would need to get planning permission which can be problematic. This should be addressed by central government urgently.

Building regs should also be amended to require the installation of PV or solar thermal on all suitable new builds (ie have a favourable facing roof elevation)

I paid over 30 in VAT on my oil order a reduction in the VAT levels for off-grid energy should be considered.

by John Swindells on 19 April 2011 Reply
You've covered a lot of important points. You have done everything you can to reduce oil consumption, but it is still extremely expensive when you come to fill the tank.

I would have thought that restricted village access would have made group buying work for both suppliers' and consumers' interests. Do you get the feeling that the suppliers aren't bothered about cost savings?

by howard hirst on 18 March 2011 Reply
Heating oil price up 40% --state pension no increase--- I just get used to being cold--simples!
by John Swindells on 18 March 2011 Reply
Make sure that you voice your concerns to the OFT, Howard!
by Rupert Richardson on 18 March 2011 Reply
We have a range of local suppliers, as well as BoilerJuice.com and another buying co-operative, who (I think) keep each other honest. Last purchase, I didn't like agreeing one price with my supplier (W J Peart - very good), but having to agree to a potentially higher price on delivery. Thankfully, the price agreed was maintained. Prices have, however soared - last one was 64p/l, up from 49p/l. I do shop around and it works. We are installing a smaller oil tank this summer, so we can put in a wood pellet boiler next year. My BIGGEST concern is not the price per se, but the idea that we have to depend for our energy on unstable or rapacious parts of the world, that we no longer control (sob) - Russia, China, Middle East. Nuclear is just worrying!
by John Swindells on 18 March 2011 Reply
Being potentially surcharged upon delivery sounds quite risky; I think that is should be down to the supplier to decide the price that they can afford to sell at on that day, using their experience to predict the wholesale price.

Besides, shouldn't the price you pay be based on the price the supplier paid a week or more previously?

As for the global energy problem, that certainly is a major long-term concern.

by a wishart on 17 March 2011 Reply
The price of household fuel is horrific and the suppliers are getting away with charging what they want. When you phone they say what the price is on that day and you get charged accordingly; however you can not tell me that they buy it on the day they quote. They charge when it's at its highest but they don't give you any cheaper when they have themselves bought it cheaper.
by John Swindells on 18 March 2011 Reply
I completely agree with you. Suppliers should be charging us based on the wholesale price they paid a week or more beforehand.

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