Household utility providers should provide "in plain English" predictions for when they expect energy bills to be heading higher or lower, based on the prices they are paying today on wholesale markets, the Consumers' Association of Ireland has said.
The call comes as wholesale prices for gas fell today from their peaks of recent weeks as weather forecasters predicted a warm December across Europe. Crude oil prices, which can also determine the price of electricity for households, have also steadied in recent days.
Dermott Jewell, senior policy adviser at the Consumers' Association, said people are in the dark about what will happen to their household bills in the coming months after wholesale gas and oil prices shot up since the summer.
He said there was a general problem that households were "being conditioned" that their bills would only increase this winter and that expectations for price inflation were being baked into the economy.
There was an opportunity for utility providers to explain "in plain English" the time it takes for increases or declines in gas prices on wholesale markets to affect retail prices.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities may have a role in getting the utilities to introduce the jargon-free forecasts in their bills to help households plan better for the winter months, he said.
European wholesale gas prices fell this morning despite Russian natural gas flows through the Yamal-Europe pipeline to Germany having eased, data from German network operator Gascade showed, Reuters reported.
The pipeline is one of the major routes for Russian gas exports to Europe.
Driven by a milder weather outlook in December and as other energy commodities also eased, the European wholesale gas contract benchmark, the so-called Title Transfer Facility, or TTF, in the Netherlands fell at one stage by €3.70 to €91.80 per megawatt hour today.
European wholesale gas prices as measured by the Dutch contract, after soaring since late summer, have now eased from their peaks in recent weeks.
Figures from the Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, show that the TTF contract has fallen from as high as €94.30 per megawatt hour only a month ago. It was trading as low as €42.20 in August.
For a long stretch until this summer, the TTF contract was trading at around €25 per megawatt hour.
The price of Brent crude was little changed today at around $80.30.
Brent crude is now down from the $89 a barrel it hit on October 26 but is up from $67.57 on August 20, according to figures from Trading Economics.
Daragh Cassidy at price comparison website bonkers.ie said it was in the interests of consumers to consider switching energy suppliers because the companies offer discounts to recruit new customers.
Some retail energy suppliers have delayed for one reason or the another passing on to households the increases in wholesale prices, Mr Cassidy said.