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MPs and campaigners call for inquiry into fuel prices
FairFuelUK is throwing its weight behind a Parliamentary Early Day Motion tabled yesterday which calls for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to reconsider its decision not to hold an inquiry into the UK petrol and diesel markets.
The motion was tabled by Robert Halfron MP who argues that despite there being a unanimous vote calling for an investigation, the OFT has refused to take action over the allegations of anti-competitive behaviour within the sector.
Evidence provided by hundreds of independent petrol retailers, transport firms, small businesses, the AA, petrolprices.com and FairFuelUK is said to have been ignored by the OFT.
In its report, the OFT blamed higher taxes and crude oil prices for the rising prices, rather than a lack of competition within the sector. But it did suggest that clear pricing on motorways could be an option and hinted at taking action if anti-competitive behaviour was found in local markets.
Higher prices in rural areas were put down to fewer competitors, a lower throughput of drivers and the increased cost of transporting fuel to the garage. The OFT ruled out any anti-competitive practices used by supermarkets to target independent retailers.
But the OFT did admit that over the past 10 years the combined gross margin for refining, wholesaling and retailing has increased by 3.4p and 7.2p per litre for petrol and diesel respectively.
The pressure is therefore on the OFT to investigate the oil companies and financial speculators who are alleged to be putting the price up at the pumps.
Speaking on behalf of FairFuelUK, Quentin Willson said: “Robert Halfron is absolutely right to question the Government on the OFT’s decision which shocked the nation”.
Peter Carroll, founder of FairFuelUK went on to say: “Justice needs to be seen to be done…we need a full scale inquiry.”
The AA’s president, Edmund King said: “The OFT sees the fuel pricing market as competitive but this clashes with drivers’ frustrations on the forecourts”. He went on to call for the publishing of petrol and diesel wholesale prices to reassure motorists.
One thing is for certain, the debate over fuel prices is likely to go on for a considerable amount of time. Indeed, some are predicting a rise of as much as 4p over the coming days…
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