Petrol market 'working well' says OFTNew report says little action needed on fuel prices

30 January 2013

Petrol and diesel prices are competitive

Petrol and diesel pricing is not a problem in the UK, says OFT

The market for petrol and diesel in the UK is functioning well, according to a new report by Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

It concludes that very little is action is required to change the current UK fuel market.

Complaints over fuel prices

Independent forecourts have been in decline for years, with the total number of UK forecourts falling from 10,867 in 2004 to 8,677 in 2012. Independent retailers had complained to the OFT about oil companies and supermarkets gaining an unfair advantage by using their size.

However, the regulator found no evidence of this: 'At a national level, competition is working well in the UK road fuel sector,' the report concludes.

Before tax, the OFT says that fuel prices in the UK are among the lowest in Europe.

It also found little evidence that, when the cost of crude oil peaked, forecourt prices would rise quickly but not fall back when crude costs fell. 

The investigation has been running since September 2012, with evidence gathered from government, trade bodies, consumer groups and motoring organisations.

Motorway pricing info needed

One problem area that the OFT did identify was the lack of pricing information on motorways.

Service stations on motorways have significantly higher fuel prices than other outlets. For instance, in August 2012 prices were on average 7.5p per litre higher for petrol and 8.3p more for diesel than regular forecourts. However, motorists are usually unable to see information about prices until after they leave the motorway.

The report is therefore asking the Department for Transport to introduce new road signs on motorways that will clearly display prices at service stations.

The OFT says it does not now plan to do any more investigation into the national fuel market, but it might take action locally if there was 'persuasive evidence of anti-competitive behaviour.'

Clive Maxwell, the OFT's chief executive, said: 'Our analysis suggests that competition is working well, and rises in pump prices over last decade or so have largely been down to increases in tax and the cost of crude oil.'

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