An energy sector watchdog has hit out at energy providers for jacking up gas prices.Independent market observer E-Control said today (Weds) companies operating in Austria must not give the ongoing debate about a possible farewell to nuclear energy in Germany as a reason for their gas price hikes.E-Control revealed Austrian households have been forced to fork out between seven and 20 per cent more for gas in the recent weeks although trade prices on the global market edged up by just five per cent at the same time. The organisation said firms have been acting “incomprehensibly.”The watchdog once more appealed to customers to consider a change of their gas providers to save money.The Austrian inflation rate shot up by 3.1 per cent from March 2010 to the same month of this year. An immense increase of mineral oil product prices has been identified as the main reason for the surge. Heating oil cost 29 per cent more in March 2011 than in the same month of last year, while car fuel prices rose by 21 per cent. The average gas price rose by just three per cent at the same time.Meanwhile, pollster Market revealed that a majority of 62 per cent of Austrians expect energy prices to rise in the foreseeable future due to nuclear disaster in Japan two months ago.There are no operating nuclear power stations on Austrian soil, but several Austrian energy providers including a subsidiary company of market leader Verbund AG are doing business with global nuclear power firms to offer low prices to their clients.