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Another fuel price rise? Oh no you don't!
PETROL companies are being forced to “think twice” about putting up their prices after the Office of Fair Trading announced an investigation.
MPs in Worcestershire have welcomed the watchdog’s move, despite petrol station owners warning they were struggling to survive.
The OFT has announced a six-week examination into whether falls in the cost of crude oil are being passed on to drivers, or simply siphoned off beforehand.
Critics say retailers are quick to bump up prices at the pumps when crude oil becomes more expensive, but are slower to react when it falls.
Between June 2007 and June this year, the price of petrol rose by 38 per cent nationally, while diesel increased by 45 per cent, with average prices rising by 96p or 97p per litre.
The OFT has already examined data revealing the rise has outstripped growth in crude oil prices over that period.
In Worcester, fuel prices this week range from 137.9p to 142.9p – compared with a national average of 139.16p.
Diesel prices range from 142.9p to 144.9p, with the national average 143.66p.
Roy Devlia, who runs Powick Service Station, said: “Prices here will go up a penny any day now, as we’ve got a distributor coming in and we know where prices are going, and they aren’t falling. Supermarkets can buy fuel up to six weeks in advance but we can’t as we haven’t got the finance to do so.”
The OFT will be collecting evidence from the entire fuel industry, including consumer groups, and has admitted the market could be suffering from “manipulation” of pricing.
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: “It’s great the OFT is having this review as any petrol companies or retailers thinking of putting up prices will have to think twice before doing so.
“In the past the OFT have said there isn’t a problem, but I’ve been writing to it a lot and finally, it has got somewhere. Prices seem to go up a lot more than they fall. It really is an issue.”
Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff said: “If it does some good I’ll be delighted. I am sceptical, as it’s been looked at in the past, but if the OFT finds something worthwhile, great.”
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin , a campaigner for fairer prices between rural and urban areas, said it was “long overdue”.
She said: “I welcome any attempt to ensure drivers pay a fair price at the pumps and look forward to seeing what conclusions they are able to draw.”
The OFT is expected to focus on the large supermarkets. The organisation says fuel now accounts for 5p in every £1 of household spending.
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