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Will we ever get a fair price for fuel?

This week we welcomed news the Office of Fair Trading is launching an investigation into how forecourt fuel prices are set.

The watchdog will conduct a six week long investigation in to how oil companies set prices, but will also shine a torch on how supermarkets conduct business in relation to their filling station operations.

Never has the phrase, ‘better late than never’, been more appropriate. Since 2007 fuel prices have risen dramatically above the rate of inflation, diesel prices spiking at nearly £1.50 earlier this year. The cost to small business has been a hammer blow.

While there’s little the Government can do about volatile oil prices on world markets, they can and should ask questions of the oil corps when fuel prices having quickly gone up, fail to fall back again as quickly.

The OFT has said their investigation will be principally looking at this issue, and it’s an issue we only have to cast out mind back to June to see when it last happened. Crude prices fell to around $90 a barrel, and prices slowly fell to around £1.30 a litre for diesel. But forecourt prices began to change almost daily come late July once prices started to nudge up again.

This is something we have seen time and time again, and the nation is owed an explanation.

We are hopeful this investigation will indeed lift the lid on who is really to blame for this kind of profiteering, whether it be the petrol stations, the suppliers, or even both.

The facts are there is real concern among businesses as to the cause of this one sided and unfair price yo-yoing – and most agree this investigation is way overdue.

Interestingly, the OFT have said they will publish the results in January – which is when August’s postponed 3p a litre duty rise will take effect. Mere coincidence, or Government trickery?

Whatever the answer, we await the results with interest for this is not a time when anyone should be trying to make a quick buck at the expense of others.

There’s a well known anecdote set during the 1970s oil crisis when a well known oil company supposedly told the crew of a tanker brimmed with oil to anchor offshore and simply wait as the cost of crude rose by the hour.

Is the process of ‘quick to rise, slow to fall’ we see on our forecourts really any different?

Profiteering is profiteering, and the sooner it ends the better for all.

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