Review into why petrol pump prices go up like a rocket and down like a feather
FEARS that cuts in oil prices are not being passed on to drivers through reductions at the pumps are to be investigated by consumer watchdogs.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced yesterday it would be gathering information over the next six weeks, and plans to publish its findings in January.
The move was warmly welcomed by motoring groups who have questioned for years why petrol and diesel prices have not fallen in line with crude oil.
Politicians in the Highlands and Islands, which have Britain’s highest forecourt prices, said such scrutiny was overdue because motorists had been “hammered for too long”.
The investigation comes as average petrol prices increased to 138.99p – within 4p of the record – when they normally fall at the end of the summer.
Automobile Association president Edmund King said: “We see this investigation as absolutely key to getting a fair fuel price in the UK. Few drivers feel we have that at the moment.”
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, the SNP’s Westminster transport spokesman, said: “We need to have a definitive view one way or another from a thorough investigation and expert analysis of what exactly creates the problem we all experience, particularly in rural areas.”
The petrol and diesel market is worth £32 billion a year, with diesel prices increasing by 43 per cent in the five years to June and petrol going up by 38 per cent. Scottish households increased their average spending on such fuel to £131 last year – two-thirds more than in 2003, official figures showed last week.
The OFT said it will explore a number of claims about how the road fuels sector is functioning, including whether supermarkets and major oil companies are making it more difficult for independent retailers to compete. The review will also consider whether there is a lack of competition between fuel retailers in some remote communities.
Claire Hart, director in the OFT’s services, infrastructure and public markets group, said: “We are keenly aware of continuing widespread concern about the pump price of petrol and diesel and we have heard a number of different claims about how the market is operating.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We welcome the OFT’s decision. Many motorists are concerned about fuel prices and that when crude oil prices fall, this isn’t seen at the pump as quickly as consumers would like.”
Quentin Willson, former Top Gear presenter and FairFuelUK campaigner, said: “There is a widespread feeling that when oil goes up, pump prices rocket immediately – but when the oil price falls, pump prices don’t reflect that fall.
“This causes a sense of complete exasperation and anger.”
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “We have always argued for pricing transparency and this review promises to provide it.
“There has long been a suspicion amongst drivers that pump prices are much quicker to rise than fall. Now at last we should get a definitive answer on how the market works.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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