Demand for probe into ‘fiasco’ over oil deliveries

Tanker lorries at the Grangemouth oil refinery. 14th January 2011. Picture by JANE BARLOW
Tanker lorries at the Grangemouth oil refinery. 14th January 2011. Picture by JANE BARLOW

NORTH East Fife’s MSP and MP have called for an investigation into the practices of energy companies following the ‘fiasco’ that arose over the delivery of heating oil and LPG to customers during the recent cold spell.

In December, the Fife Herald and St Andrews Citizen highlighted the problems of householders, many in rural areas, who had been forced to go without heating or were at critically low levels of fuel because suppliers claimed they were unable to get the necessary supplies.

Now MSP Iain Smith has called on the Office of Fair Trading to conduct an investigation, while MP Sir Menzies Campbell has written to the energy secretary Chris Huhne.

Mr Smith said: “The fiasco caused by the bad weather over the past few weeks caused untold numbers of people to either go without or seriously reduce the amount of heating oil and gas they used over Christmas and the new year because the suppliers said they were unable to get deliveries to them.

“Many people who ordered, or tried to order, heating oil were told that they would not get a delivery for several weeks, and heating oil suppliers refused to tell them what the price will be.

“There is also evidence that the price of heating oil has doubled in some cases.

“This, quite frankly, is not good enough.

“It is of great concern that elderly and vulnerable people were stuck in their homes over the Christmas period with no heating oil supplies, or with their supplies so low that they had to run their heating at a very low level to avoid damaging their equipment.”

Mr Smith said he had raised the issue at Holyrood and had been told by John Swinney that there was no problem with securing heating oil and that Grangemeouth refinery was working at normal capacity.

“There is no doubt that there are inconsistencies with what energy suppliers have been saying and what is actually the case,” declared Mr Smith.

“I have asked the Office of Fair Trading to investigate these irregularities as it appears that wholesalers have been reneging on their customer contracts and sitting on their supplies in an effort to make more money.”