PUBLICANS and restaurant owners have been urged to boycott Power NI after it announced an 18% price rise in electricity.
Pubs of Ulster, the trade body for licensed premises, said the July 1 hike will have a “severe impact” on many businesses and could leave them uncertain about their future.
Chief Executive Colin Neill called for hotel, bar and restaurant owners to shop around for electricity.
“We are very concerned about the announcement by Power NI to increase their cost of electricity by 18% for small business customers,” Mr Neill said.
“This will have a severe direct impact on our members at a time when they have had to reduce costs and already suffered from a loss in profits.
“It’s time to Switch off Power NI
“From today, we will be urging our members to move to more competitive electricity suppliers and will be actively working with them to facilitate this switching process immediately.”
There has been outrage across the Northern Ireland business community over Wednesday’s announcement, which will see average costs go up by £5.33 per week.
Domestic users can expect their weekly bills to rise by £1.73.
Glyn Roberts of the NI Independent Retail Trade Association said: “Given that many members have expensive refrigeration costs, they are going to be particularly hard hit by this increase.
“We are also concerned that the similar increase on domestic customers will also result in less disposable income and will have a negative impact on spending in our local retail sector.”
The Federation of Small Business Leaders called the costs a “massive burden”.
Wilfred Mitchell from the group said: “A 17.8% addition to power bills is breathtaking.
“Power NI estimates that it will add just over £5 a week to the average business bill but a great many of our members use more than that.
“This will add yet another massive burden to small businesses.”
Power NI, which serves 620,000 customers, said it cut its prices last year while other UK companies raised theirs – adding it is always looking for opportunities to reduce costs.
Stephen McCully of Power NI said: “We regret having to make the difficult decision to increase prices, especially since we cut prices by over 14% last October. Prices are roughly back to what they were in 2011, since the previous cut is unfortunately now cancelled out.
“There is never a good time to increase prices and it is something we do reluctantly.”