A third of Greeks use credit for heat

About one in three consumers (or 30 percent) throughout the country buy heating oil on credit, as their income cannot cover the increased expenditure required by high prices, according to preliminary data by the Greek Gasoline Station Owners’ Federation (OBE). «Consumers’ problems in paying for their heating oil have in recent years passed on to gasoline-station owners,» said Dimitris Makrivelios, the OBE president. The market is trying to address the problem created by the combination of high prices, for a product in steady demand, with the low incomes. The state, which is not as flexible, has been discussing the heating oil allowance for more than a year now but the market seems more prepared to deal with the issue. The phenomenon is mainly seen outside Athens, although the problem is no smaller for consumers in cities; just 2 percent of them buy heating oil on credit, but this is not due to affluence. «In the cities only 2 percent buy on credit simply because people do not know one another and they cannot show trust for providing credit,» Makryvelios says. Banks are now trying to make the most of this trend. Since last week, they have been advertising instant-cash loans at a low interest rate for the purchase of heating oil. This interest rate may make heating oil more expensive for borrowers, but the charge is certainly smaller than the credit cards consumers are forced to use due to the lack of cash flow. After all this is a 2-billion-euro-per-year market that banks can tap. Heating oil prices have remained this week around 55 cents per liter in Attica and Thessaloniki. In the countryside prices rise by up to five cents, depending on the prefecture, always for quantities exceeding 1,000 liters. For smaller purchases the price also depends on the distance and the difficulty of delivery. «Nevertheless, the price should not be the only criterion for the purchases consumers make,» says Makryvelios, touching on the issue of adulteration. He advises consumers to «create relationships of trust with their local gasoline-station owners,» to make sure the color of the heating oil is reddish and finally to measure their tank’s dimension to be sure of the actual amount of heating oil they have purchased.

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