Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

Rocket and feather pricing a 'myth', fuel industry tells Fair Fuel inquiry

09 December, 2015

Brian Madderson

Representatives of key elements of the road fuels industry came out in force in London yesterday to give evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Fuel for motorists and hauliers, and were unanimous in refuting claims of ‘rocket and feather’ pricing.

The meeting was led by James McCartney, Conservative MP for Colne Valley, and chair of the group, who said the aim of the session was to establish a clearer understanding of how fuel prices at the pumps through the supply chain were calculated.

Also asking the questions were Rob Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, and vice chair of the group; alongside motoring journalist and campaigner Quentin Willson, and Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuel UK Campaign, which has been fighting for lower petrol and diesel prices for five years. Cox said the campaign has 1.2m supporters and receives about 2,000 emails a week of which 70% are complaints about fuel prices. He said the campaign’s supporters believed in the ‘rocket and feather’ pricing syndrome’ where pump prices do not reflect oil price movements in a fair and accurate way.

“We want to ‘crack open’ this opaque market,” said Cox. “We want to be able to go back to our supporters and explain to them exactly how prices are calculated at the pumps; and explain why in the summer - with those huge drops in the price of crude - did it take sometimes eight weeks for those falls to be represented on the forecourt.”

Those quizzed included representatives from Platts; Prax Petroleum (which now owns Harvest Energy); Portland Fuels – a specialist oil company offering fixed-price deals to fleet customers; supermarket Asda; T W Jones Downstream Consulting; independent retailer Mike Garner from the Portsmouth-based Garner Group; and Brian Madderson from the PRA.

The major oil companies had declined the meeting citing reasons of market confidentiality.

During the three hour session, those questioned provided extensive and detailed explanations of how each aspect of the industry operated, and all agreed that ‘rocket and feather’ pricing was an anecdotal myth.

At the end of the meeting, despite the volume of information, Cox claimed to be “none the wiser”. His colleagues however said they found the meeting very worthwhile. The group’s initial findings will be published shortly.

Madderson commented: “It is clear there is no evidence of widespread abuse. This was the view of all the witnesses interviewed yesterday from a wide range of industry backgrounds. The Office of Fair Trading didn’t find anything in its report two years ago. Rocket and feather pricing is an urban myth perpetrated by FairFuel UK.”





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