By Clodagh Sheehy
Wednesday August 17 2011
CASH-STRAPPED families face gas, electricity and insurance hikes which will add about €280 a year to their household bills just as winter hits.
Airtricity's half a million customers are being told that electricity prices will rise by 12.3pc from the beginning of September while gas prices will go up by 21.2pc from October 1.
The ESB's 1.2million electricity customers and 20,000 gas customers are bracing themselves for a similar price increase from October.
Bord Gais has already increased its electricity prices by 12pc at the beginning of this month and the company is expected to add 22pc to its gas prices from October.
In addition home insurance policies have risen by an average of 6pc since April which is a hike of €28 bringing the cost of the most common policies to just under €500 a year.
A survey by AA Ireland reveals that home insurance costs are soaring well above the rate of inflation which stood at 2.7pc in July.
Simon Moynihan, of consumer website Bonkers.ie, says the Airtricity price hike, which not surprising, is "very bad news for already hard-pressed customers, who can expect energy bills to go up by as much as ¤250 a year.
He recommended that although the latest price hikes were "very troubling but customers should probably hold tight for a little longer before switching".
"Once all of the price increases are in it will become clearer who is the cheapest," he added.
The ESB is reviewing prices and although a spokesman would not confirm any rise it is expected that these prices will increase within weeks.
Airtricity chief executive blamed the price hikes on the "significant increase" in wholesale energy costs and said the company regretted "very much" the need to put up prices.
"It gives us no pleasure to announce our first price increase since joining the mass domestic market in 2008.
"Unfortunately there has been a significant increase in wholesale energy prices and while we have done our best to absorb these costs we can no longer do so."
The home insurance survey by the AA was based on 1,800 quotes from nine insurance providers on a sample of 200 home insurance policies.
It showed that insurance costs outside Dublin rose even more than those in the city -- up from €491 in the first quarter of the year to €518 in the second.
John Curtain, president of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland pointed out that in the same period rebuilding costs had fallen between 4-10pc
He said they could not see any "justifiable reason" for the insurance hikes "from a construction point of view".
Dermott Jewell, CEO of the Consumers' Association of Ireland, said insurance companies were simply passing the buck for their increased payouts on to all consumers.
"You have to ask the insurance companies why, if building costs are down, they are increasing rates," he said.
Mr Jewell said the latest increases rekindled the argument for no-claims bonuses for householders.
"Even if you've never made a claim, you're still being penalised," he added.