By Noel Baker
The energy regulator has said he "regretted" sanctioning a rise in Bord Gáis Energy’s gas prices, given that it has led to "copycatting" among other companies, hitting consumers in the pocket.
The Commission for Energy Regulation allowed Bord Gáis to increase its charges by 8.5% from next month.
With electricity prices also set to increase, customers are facing increased energy bills.
Bord Gáis Energy has said it will raise the price of domestic electricity by almost 5% from October, while Airtricity will increase its prices by 4.7%, and Electric Ireland by 5.9%.
Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, the chairman of the Commission for Energy Regulation, Dermot Nolan, said: "We had to approve an 8.5% increase recently as a result of the wholesale price of gas. We have an arrangement whereby we look at Bord Gáis prices every three months, and we look at it very closely every year.
"The other companies waited and reacted. The forces that have driven the costs up for [Bord Gáis], which are increases in cost of buying gas from Britain where we buy most of our gas; that is affecting the other companies as well. They are copycatting and that is not great."
Mr Nolan said he hoped the sector would be deregulated within the next year, as had already happened in the electricity market.
"I very much regret doing it," he said of the gas price increase. "I know consumers are finding it very difficult. I would say there was no choice, given that we are totally dependent on buying gas from overseas."
The recent Consumer Switching Behaviour report from the National Consumer Agency shows that 85% of consumers who switched companies across a number of areas within the past year made savings.
* Shop around to check which plan works best for you. A website such as bonkers.ie will let you compare your gas and electricity packages.
* Make sure you are comparing like with like, such as the unit rate and the standing charge.
* Some suppliers offer discounts if you get gas and electricity from them.
* Consider paying by direct debit if this means a discount.
* You are entitled to a seven-day cooling-off period, and can cancel your contract if you are not happy with the terms.