All I seem to hear lately is that the cost of everything is…rising. A typical eye-watering example is the impending hike in electricity prices as reported in the Belfast Telegraph on 4.9.08: Electricity bills to rocket by 30%. Robin Morton reports:-

“Northern Ireland Electricity is poised to hit consumers with an increase of up to £160 a year, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.

Details of the new tariffs, which will take effect on October 1, are still being finalised in negotiations between NIE Energy, the Utility Regulator and the Consumer Council.

But it looks likely that the increase — to be announced next week — will be between 30% and 36%, and it’s all down to the soaring wholesale cost of gas.

At present, the average household bill stands at £439 a year, but the proposed increase could put this figure up to just under £600.

And in a depressing double whammy for over-stretched families, Phoenix Natural Gas is also set next week to announce a double digit increase, to also take effect on October 1.

In May, Phoenix increased its tariff by 28%, a move which sparked complaints from fuel poverty groups. And last month, Maxol Direct revealed that the price of home heating oil in Northern Ireland has risen by around 80% in the last year.”

Now.. wow…THAT is startling as a rise!

At the same time of course we’re hearing of the need for “pay restraint”.

Ahem…. isn’t this some kind of a two way street here? You know the deal… keep prices steady and wages steady and then at the very worse we don’t all wind up worse off? It seems to me that the utility companies are lining their pockets at a time of world insecurity. In certain circumstances – wartime for instance – that is deemed profiteeringthe making of excess profit on goods in short supply.

Perhaps the Northern Ireland utility companies might look to the experience of one Paul Gizzonio. Anybody remember him? He’s the garage owner who decided to up his prices during one of England’s recent fuel crises. The results of his actions are reported in the Daily Telegraph of 21.6.01: Petrol profiteer ruined by drivers who steered clear. This heart-warming report illustrates the long memories of those who are fleeced by profiteering individuals:-

“A FILLING station owner condemned as Britain’s greediest profiteer when he more than doubled his petrol prices during the fuel crisis has gone bankrupt after his customers deserted him.

Paul Gizzonio angered motorists last September by charging £1.99 for a litre of unleaded (about £9.10 a gallon) and £2.50 for super unleaded (about £11.42). He said he had to “ration by price” to stay in business. But the AA accused him of going “way over the top”.

An AA spokesman said yesterday: “I am not surprised that motorists have deserted him. If people feel they are being ripped off, they will vote with their feet.” The Gizzonio UK filling station, at Normanton, Derby, closed after a bankruptcy order was issued at Derby county court last month. Other stations that Mr Gizzonio ran in the area are in the hands of insolvency agents.”

I have no doubt, of course, that the root many of our problems is the war being waged in Iraq, the greed of American banks in their headlong rush to make a cheap buck by exploiting the vulnerable in the housing market and by the unending greed of global business leaders in their total focus on company profit at any cost.

A lot of this will be of scant comfort to hard-pressed families in Northern Ireland as the winter bites but ordinary people have extraordinary memories when it comes to exploitation and profiteering. And elections are on the way. Perhaps, at that time, we’ll  focus on which of our political leaders stood with us in condemning profiteering and which parties generally remained silent. Perhaps we’ll even send some guys back in there who want to protect ordinary people instead of helping Big Business turn a quick and unethical buck.

What do you think?


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