Household expenses saw a sharp rise last week as the cost of broadband, gas and electricity went up for many customers. On the same day, public transport costs increased throughout the country. Sky and Vodafone raised the price of their TV and broadband packages, while electricity companies Energia, Flogas, PrePayPower and Pinergy all increased their prices on the same day.
These price rises all occurred on the same day, 1 December, hitting some customers with several new costs all at once. The Irish Independent estimated that some consumers may end up paying an extra €250 a year if they get broadband, electricity and gas from a combination of these companies.
Ireland now has the fourth most expensive electricity in Europe, with energy companies blaming the wholesale cost of electricity for the recent rises.
The rise in household costs came just before the Christmas shopping season. There are worries that these price rises will depress Christmas spending just as Limerick businesses are looking forward to a much-needed financial boost.
The cost of a single Bus Éireann fare has risen 10c to €2.30, meaning that those living outside the city centre will have to spend nearly €5 a day to make a shopping trip and return home. The cost of travel using a Leap Card will still be less expensive than paying in cash, but the Leap Card system is still widely regarded as inadequate compared to its European counterparts.
Dr Gráinne Greehy, Director of Policy with Limerick Chamber of Commerce, responded to rising prices by stressing the need to preserve cost competitiveness ‘in so far as is possible.’
“While recognising that businesses need to balance their books, it is vital that we strive to maintain the cost competitiveness improvements made during the recession, particularly in light of the uncertain economic landscape we face with Brexit and the overhaul of the US tax code. Higher costs of living erode our cost competitiveness and put increased pressure on wage expectations,” Dr Greehy said.
“The reported price increases could cumulatively aggregate to hundreds of euro to many annual households’ bills, which could negatively impact consumers’ pockets, and in turn their retail spending power and businesses’ revenues. These eventualities reinforce the need to shop locally to support our local businesses, so that spending power stays strong within Limerick,” she said.
The Consumers’ Association of Ireland has suggested that price controls may be the answer to the problem, though any move to impose more stringent regulations on utility companies will be fiercely resisted.
Though the price rises all took place on a single day, there is no suggestion that utility companies have engaged in ‘cartel-like activities,’ according to the Independent.
Strong Christmas trading is expected despite the rise in gas, electricity and public transport, though the effect on individual consumer activity remains to be seen.