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Rural fuel customers treated unfairly by suppliers

Thousands of rural businesses, including shoots and game farms, rely on ‘off-grid’ energy, such as heating oil and bottled gas for rearing sheds.

Among a number of concerns reported by the OFT was that some suppliers were charging a different price on delivery from that quoted when the order was taken.

The OFT also received complaints from people locked into expensive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) contracts following an initial introductory rate, and said that it would work with the industry to resolve this matter.

Executive director, Clive Maxwell, said: “While there seems to be a good choice of suppliers across most of the country, we have real concerns about whether consumer protection law is being complied with in all cases. It is important the ‘off-grid’ energy sector works well and that people who rely on it are protected.”

The Countryside Alliance submitted evidence to the OFT study, and said the plight of rural businesses must not be ignored as the Government tries to get a grip on energy companies and prices.

Head of policy, Sarah Lee, said: “The study’s findings accord with what our members tell us. The simple fact is that people living and working in rural areas, such as gamekeepers and small holders, are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to energy suppliers because the ‘off-grid’ market is unregulated.”

“LPG is essential for game rearing, and those gamekeepers who rely on it in the field are left vulnerable to market volatility through lack of competition in remote rural areas and price spikes during severe weather.”

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