New hope on petrol price rises

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Drivers across the country have finally been given a cause for optimism following the announcement that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a review into whether reductions in the price of crude oil are being passed on to motorists.

Although much of the consternation over fuel prices has centred on the Government’s taxation policy, the other strand of the arguments concerning inflated prices has centred on the perceived lack of parity between the price of crude oil and the price at the pumps.

The watchdog called for information from the industry, motoring groups and consumer bodies amid concerns over the prices charged for petrol and diesel at the pumps.

AA president Edmund King strongly welcomed the OFT’s decision to investigate fuel pricing and said the move was “overdue”.

The OFT said it will be gathering information over the next six weeks, and plans to publish its findings in January.

The UK retail road fuels sector is estimated to be worth around £32 billion, the OFT said.

Petrol prices rose by 38per cent between June 2007 and June 2012, while diesel prices went up by 43per cent over the same period.

Supermarkets

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.

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister says: “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.”

If the OFT’s report finds that the motorist is being treated unfairly, it will have the authority to intervene to ensure adequate competition, although how this will manifest itself against the might of the big supermarkets and fuel stations remains to be seen.