Dealers have welcomed the decision by the European Commission to launch its investigation into oil price fixing.

Susie Hawkins of Cheltenham-based Simon Smith Group said: “We were pleased when we heard it was being investigated. The volatility of prices has made it very difficult for us because it directly affects our costs.

“We get daily Platts prices and often they have gone up or down 1ppl and there’s very little explanation of why. It can only be a good thing for everyone - for consumers and for us.”

Referring to the recent OFT inquiry into the road fuel market, she added: “We were disappointed with the outcome of the OFT inquiry, but its remit was quite narrow. Hopefully this investigation will settle the matter, one way or the other.”

Stuart Giles of Golden Cross Group said: “I welcome this inquiry because the figures just do not stack up.”

He, too, had been disappointed by the OFT findings, and said: “How could they look into something as complex as this in six weeks and then say there was nothing to be found.”

But he also struck a note of caution. He warned: “This could impact on the individual dealers. If oil companies are found guilty of price rigging, consumers could decide to boycott those brands, but what they don’t understand is the dealers selling those brands, who had nothing to do with it, will be the ones who are affected.”

He also made the point that if any rigging had gone on it was at a very high level and the retail arms of the oil companies would have had no influence over this at all.

Former PRA president Phil Richardson, of Park Road Group in Newcastle, said he was delighted by the decision to carry out the investigation.

He said: “I can see very little correlation between crude oil supplies and Platts’ prices. Platts seems to be based on a few cargoes in Rotterdam when there is lots of other business going on elsewhere, so it has always seemed a fairly artificial figure.”

As the buying price for dealers’ supplies was based on Platts figures, however, he said any market rigging was likely to have had an effect on dealers’ businesses.

He added: “Anything that makes the market more transparent and brings lower prices for us and consumers can’t be knocked.”