petrol price probe by OFT

The consumer and competition authority is asking for information on the UK petrol and diesel sector from industry, leading motoring groups and consumer bodies.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) anticipates gathering enough data to further investigate claims of whether the fall in the prices of crude oil are being reflected at the pumps.

The OFT is analysing whether leading oil companies and supermarkets are making it difficult for independent firms to operate, and whether rural motorists are paying too much to fill up their cars due to little competition among fuel retailers.

The findings will be gathered over the next six weeks and published in January 2013. It’s estimated the UK retail road fuels sector is worth around ¬£32bn, and that between June 2007 and June 2012, petrol and diesels prices rose an astonishing 38 and 42 per cent respectively.

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.

“We have therefore decided to take a broad based look at this sector, to provide an opportunity for people to share their concerns and evidence with us. This will help us determine whether claims about competition problems are well-founded and whether any further action is warranted.”

The Petrol Retailer’s Association’s (PRA) chairman, Brian Madderson, has called the OFT investigation as “a significant step forward” into “anti-competitive pricing in the UK fuel market”.

“It has been 14 years since the last OFT investigation into the fuel sector and much has changed in the market since then,” said Madderson.

“RMI Petrol submitted a detailed report to the OFT earlier this year, asking for a “Market Study” under the terms of the Enterprise Act 2002. The report provided evidence of alleged anti-competitive pricing across the UK based on evidence gathered from their members.

“The time has come to be proactive in the search for further evidence to test claims of anti-competitive pricing in the UK’s fuel market. It is imperative that independent fuel retailers respond to the call and submit evidence of unfair pricing and competition issues,” he concluded.