Home Heating Oil
Home heating oil (HHO) is the most commonly used heating fuel in Northern Ireland with approximately 68 percent of households relying on it.
The HHO sector consists of over 200 suppliers operating throughout Northern Ireland.
The Consumer Council carries out an oil survey to find out the cheapest and dearest prices for oil in areas across Northern Ireland, allowing you to benchmark costs and shop around for the best deal. The price you pay for your heating oil is important, but you should also consider the following:
- Is your oil distributor a NI Oil Federation (NIOF) member – their Customer Charter provides guaranteed standards of service including a free complaints service with The Consumer Council;
- Are they known to be reliable, punctual, and do they offer good payment terms and offers i.e. discount on boiler service; and
- Do regular customers receive preferential treatment, for example if supplies come under pressure due to severe weather.
The HHO sector is unregulated but heating oil prices in NI are regularly up to 10% lower than the UK and Ireland average due to healthy competition. The Consumer Council has worked with the NIOF, an industry body for the HHO sector, to produce a Customer Charter which offers guaranteed standards of service for consumers. It also means that you can take your complaint to the NIOF if you are dissatisfied with the response from your supplier to a complaint about customer service. If you remain dissatisfied you can contact The Consumer Council who will take the complaint up on your behalf.
Around 60 percent of HHO suppliers are members of the Federation. A list of the members and a copy of the Customer Charter can be found at: www.nioil.com. Complaints relating to measures and quality of oil can be investigated by Trading Standards Service.
How to complain
For complaints relating to customer services you should contact your oil supplier, and give them a chance to resolve the problem. If your supplier cannot sort out the problem to your satisfaction, and they are a member of the NIOF, you can contact them and they will review your complaint.
Alternatively, you can contact The Consumer Council for independent advice and information on your rights.
For complaints relating to disputed delivery amounts or quality you should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262, who will alert Trading Standards Service.
Tips for Preventing Oil Theft
Home heating oil tanks can be a target for thieves, especially if they are not secured. If you are installing a new oil tank, think about putting it in a secure location. If your oil tank is already positioned, there are a number of steps you can take to safeguard it this winter:
- Lock your gates;
- Create obstacles or place gravel around the tank that will make noise;
- Use high plants to hide the tank;
- Use closed shackle padlocks, as they are difficult to open without the key;
- Install outdoor lighting; and,
- Install oil tank level alarms – these can be expensive, but so is oil theft.
Price of Home Heating Oil
Research by The Consumer Council has found over 60% of households in Northern Ireland do not shop around to get the best price for oil.
Consumers can use this information to see how much the average cost of oil is in their region, so they can check if they are getting a good deal.