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OFT launches diesel price investigation

London, UK: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to investigate the UK petrol and diesel fuel supply sector.

The OFT will explore a number of claims about how the road fuels sector in the UK is functioning, including:

  • whether reductions in the price of crude oil are being reflected in falling pump prices
  • whether supermarkets’ and major oil companies’ practices may be making it more difficult for independent retailers to compete with them
  • whether there is a lack of competition between fuel retailers in some remote communities in the UK, and
  • whether concerns about price co-ordination and the structure of road fuels markets identified by other national competition authorities are relevant in the UK.

The UK retail road fuels sector is estimated to be worth around £32 billion. Diesel prices by 43% cent between June 2007 and June 2012 and petrol prices rose by 38% in the same period.

“In light of continuing public concern about pump prices, the OFT wants to identify whether or not there are competition problems that it can tackle in the sector. It is inviting the industry, motoring groups and consumer bodies to submit information,” the OFT said.

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 Road Haulage Association welcomed the decision. Geoff Dunning, RHA chief executive says: “Fuel pricing has always been a massive issue for the Association and its members. We are greatly encouraged that the OFT has recognised the concerns of the haulage industry and the general public and is preparing to take action”.

The OFT will publish its findings in January 2013.