Thursday, 31 January 2013

'Whitewash' storm as watchdog rules out petrol price inquiry because there was no evidence drivers were ripped off

Motoring groups accused the Office of Fair Trading of ‘a whitewash’ yesterday after the watchdog ruled out a full inquiry into petrol prices.
The OFT, which launched a probe last year, claimed there was no evidence drivers were being ripped off.
For years motorists have complained that pump prices soar when the price of crude oil rises, but fail to drop if it then falls.

But in a surprise decision, the OFT ruled out a full inquiry – saying there was ‘very limited evidence’ that prices were being kept artificially high.
Despite acknowledging ‘widespread mistrust’ by motorists, the OFT ruled ‘competition is working well’ in the petrol industry.
It said price rises were mostly caused by rising crude oil costs and tax rises.
The ruling was slammed as ‘a whitewash’ by critics. They said the decision was ‘bitterly disappointing’ and ‘a missed opportunity’ to give a fair deal to drivers by making the issue of fuel pricing more transparent.

FairFuelUK spokesman Quentin Willson said: ‘Every motorist and business in Britain instinctively knows that something’s not right.
‘UK consumers will be bitterly disappointed. The nation will feel let down. Quite frankly, I’m shocked.’
Road Haulage Association chief executive Geoff Dunning said: ‘We asked for transparency but all we got was a whitewash. The OFT acknowledges that high pump prices are a result of high crude prices, not competition.

‘So why when the barrel price drops, is that not reflected at the pump?’
And the AA noted that since the start of the year, the cost of filling a tank has risen with petrol now costing 134.08p per litre and diesel 141.42p.
AA president Edmund King said drivers will be ‘bitterly disappointed and frustrated’ by the OFT. He said: ‘Wholesale price surges that shot up 10p a litre and collapsed just as quickly appeared at the pump in days – but took weeks to fall away.’
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said many would find the OFT report ‘hard to believe’.

But he noted the OFT was right to identify that British motorists pay the highest fuel tax in Europe, at 60p in every pound.
‘The OFT does identify the true cause of drivers’ misery – the Chancellor and crude oil prices,’ Professor Glaister said. ‘About 60 per cent of the pump price is accounted for by fuel duty and VAT.’
The Petrol Retailers’ Association ‘condemned’ the OFT ruling, which left garages having to ‘explain the unexplainable’ to angry motorists on their forecourts.
Tory MP Robert Halfon, who spearheaded the Commons campaign against rip-off fuel prices, said the scandal still needed to be addressed.
He insisted: ‘Whatever the OFT says, high prices at the pump are crushing families across Britain. Oil companies bear responsibility as well as the Government.’

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