Dear David: We have reached day NINE!

Subject: there is something very wrong with the price of heating OIL

89ppl +VAT

This is a matter of extreme urgency for the whole of the UK: we have found a new market high. Those unfortunate enough to live in the wrong place and make the wrong call will pay 89ppl for their heating OIL. That represents an increase of around 30ppl in just eight trading days in December – an increase of over 50%. At a time when so many are desperately struggling to pay their energy bills, thetotal cost of £467.25 for 500 litres against a wholesale price of £258.82 equates to an extraordinary 80% mark-up.

The wholesale price: until it closed up yesterday the wholesale price had plummeted by nearly 4% as it dropped for seven straight trading days and yet we have seen the retail price rise rapidly across huge parts of the country but, bizarrely, not the whole country.

David, Ed & John: I have met with all three of you in the last few months and you asked me to keep you updated…I am keeping you updated. You can read what has happened for the last 8 days herewww.community-buying.com. You all know what drives me to do this and why I believe it is so important that OIL buyers across the UK get the representation they deserve, and this is all I want to ask on their behalf: is what is happening fair or is it a rural injustice?

There is something VERY wrong with the price of heating OIL: if you live in Cornwall or Northumberland you can often expect to pay slightly more for your heating OIL. If you live on the Isle of Wight or in Northern Ireland it is a cast iron fact that there is at least a 2-3ppl premium simply for getting the fuel there. So how is it that yesterday you could buy heating OIL at less than 60ppl (+VAT) in both Cornwall and Northumberland, at exactly 60ppl (+VAT) on the Isle of Wight and at an extraordinary 56.9ppl (+VAT) in and around Belfast, when in Shropshire the price was as high as 89ppl (+VAT)? Does it make any sense that the price in Northern Ireland has been going down, the price on the Isle of Wight is the same as it was at the beginning of December or that the price in Cornwall has gone up by 2ppl, when we have seen huge escalations in prices over eight trading days in December from around 60ppl: yesterday we found prices of over 75ppl in Suffolk, over 71ppl in Oxfordshire and 80ppl in Somerset – I doubt very much that 89ppl is the highest.

Where will it be allowed to go in the next seven trading days? If this escalation is allowed to continue with zero pressure from the Government, consumer groups, the third sector, from within the industry and the media then where will it end? It really is down to you. We need an emergency summit involving those that represent all aspects of the heating OIL business – especially consumers – and we need it NOW! If it was electricity or gas that was being increased in this way then you would have already had the Big Six around a table at Number 10. Nobody else is going to bring it together and bring this under control – it is down to you.

This was not supposed to happen again: what occurred two years ago was a complete debacle and is well documented elsewhere. Many conscientious people within the industry are still embarrassed that it happened at all and I don’t doubt they will support an initiative to ensure that they are not once again considered to be part of another episode that will reflect appallingly on the entire industry. What I cannot believe is that we are even considering this issue again, a lot of noise followed what went before, but I have to ask what has actually changed?

Shenanigans are back again: some of the things we have been told down the phone as sales people have justified the quote they have just given us are simply depressing, e.g. “buy it now it will be this expensive through till March”: clearly there is no need for me to explain the volatility of the price of crude OIL that makes a statement like that simply absurd – predicting next week is almost impossible. Also the obvious tactic of “pluck a figure out of the air depending who is on the phone”, e.g. my colleague with a very meek and mild female voice was given a price of 75ppl and when I called for the same postcode I got 66ppl. I see no point in going on.

Who needs to be involved? You can see the full list of recipients below but high on the list is the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers – the trade body for the suppliers. I have checked their website and they seem oblivious to the price hikes that are occurring and I know they will be desperate to be informed and involved in bringing this to a quick resolution. However, we need to include everyone from supplier to consumer via many others such as: Rural Community Councils, AgeUK, CAB, Consumer Focus, The Eden Project and the media that have taken a real interest like You & Yours on Radio 4 and The Sunday Times.

Finally, it is minus five degrees outside my front door right now; last week the Chancellor did nothing to ease that with the chilling news that the age of austerity is going to go on even longer than first thought; fuel poverty is biting into more lives than we have actually got documented; and when all of that is added together many millions face anything but a happy festive period. Surely one thing we should be able to depend on is a supply industry that is very aware of these, and many other issues, that impact the people they call their customers, to be responsible, ethical and transparent whilst showing a real social conscience. Think about it for a moment: every winter thousands of vulnerable people die from the effects of the cold as a result of such a convergence of circumstances, how is what I have documented above going to do anything other than exacerbate that?

Gentlemen, I will continue to update you daily whilst waiting for your call.

Keep warm!