A THIRD gas supplier is to hit families with higher prices next month.
The rise means that 600,000 homes will now face higher gas bills just as the winter sets in.
Airtricity is to push up household prices by 2pc on October 1, the same rise that is being imposed by Bord Gais and Electric Ireland.
The move has prompted a leading consumer body to call for an investigation by the Competition Authority into prices rising at the same level at three rival gas suppliers.
Dermott Jewell, of the Consumers' Association, said: "How coincidental that three companies increase prices by the same amount. This warrants an investigation by the Competition Authority." It comes after two large rises in the past two years, which have seen annual domestic gas bills approach €1,000 for the first time.
The fourth supplier of gas to homes, Flogas, is now expected to bring in a similar rise, according to Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie "This means there is no way of escaping the gas price rises," Mr Moynihan said.
And electricity bills will rise by a similar amount, which will force householders to fork out an extra €50 a year for lighting and heat.
Airtricity has around 110,000 gas customers, with a similar number getting gas supplies from Electric Ireland.
There are 380,000 residential gas customers with Bord Gais.
Airtricity blamed an increase in charges for distributing gas around the network, the cost of which was determined by regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation.
Airtricity md Stephen Wheeler said: "We sincerely regret having to increase our prices at this time. Unfortunately increases in costs such as the regulatory approved increase in networks charges mean that this price change is unavoidable." He said his company was acutely aware of the impact that any price increase had on householders in these times.
The combined rises in gas prices the past two years mean that gas prices have surged by more than a third. This has added €250 a year to a typical family's gas bill.
The combination of rises in electricity prices and gas costs mean that households could see the average family paying close to €2,200 a year for both fuels for the first time.
Householders have been told by the energy regulator to shop around for the best-value tariff