FUEL prices continue to bite into family budgets, but motorists have been told competition in the market is “working well”.
An investigation into the UK road fuel market by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has revealed no cause for concern.
The results of a four-month inquiry were published yesterday with the OFT saying there was no evidence of “anti-competitive” behaviour.
Anecdotal evidence of pump prices going up quickly but down slowly after changes in the wholesale oil price was also dismissed.
Petrol prices rose by 38% between June 2007 and June 2012 while diesel prices went up by 43%.
In Huddersfield yesterday, drivers faced paying between 130.7p to 133.9p per litre for unleaded fuel, and 138.7p to 140.9p for diesel.
OFT chief executive Clive Maxwell said: “We recognise there has been widespread mistrust in how this market is operating.
“However our analysis suggests that competition is working well and rises in pump prices over the past decade or so have largely been down to increases in tax and the cost of crude oil.”
Motoring organisations have reacted angrily saying the report failed to tackle people’s concerns.
FairFuelUK spokesman Quentin Willson said: “UK consumers will be bitterly disappointed. The nation will feel let down.”
AA president Edmund King added: “The OFT sees the fuel pricing market as competitive, but this clashes with drivers’ frustration on the forecourts.”
Bernard Stern, a site manager for Paddock-based fuel retailer C J Stern (Oils) Ltd, said someone must be profiting from movements in the wholesale price, but it certainly wasn’t retailers.
“Retailers operate on a gross margin of 3-3.5p a litre and out of that we have to pay our staff, credit card charges, bank charges and so on, so what profit is left is the bare bones,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any price-fixing out there, but I suspect there are some speculators in the City who are the profiteers.
“It’s a grey area that I don’t know much about.”
The OFT said the UK had some of the cheapest pre-tax road fuel prices in Europe, noting that in the 10 years to 2012 pump prices increased from 76p per litre to 136p for petrol and from 78p to 142p for diesel.