PRA chairman Brian Madderson has promised a "very robust response" and intense lobbying after an OFT investigation gave the road fuel market a clean bill of health (see News Extra, page 10).
The OFT was looking into whether it should order a full inquiry into the sector after coming under intense pressure from a wide range of trade and consumer bodies and MPs alleging market rigging and anti-competitive practices.
However, despite a mass of evidence from the PRA, including detailed submissions from around 75 dealers, Clive Maxwell, OFT chief executive, said: "Our analysis suggests that competition is working well our call for information has not identified any evidence of anti-competitive behaviour in the fuel market at a national level, where competition appears to be strong."
Madderson said the PRA would be working closely with Robert Halfon MP and a cross- party group of about 80 Members of Parliament who have pressed for an inquiry into the fuel market.
The day after the report was published Halfon tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons calling on the OFT to reconsider.
The motion said the OFT had taken the decision "despite a unanimous vote in Parliament calling for an investigation and despite evidence of market abuse handed to them by hundreds of independent petrol stations, transport firms, small businesses and members of the public through RMI Petrol, the AA, petrolpromise.com and FairFuelUK".
Few EDMs are debated in the Commons but they are a way for MPs to highlight causes, and the support they have from other MPs.
Madderson said the OFT’s report showed it had ignored written assurances given to the PRA that it would focus not only the lower prices charged by supermarkets but also the longer-term implications of declining forecourt numbers.
Madderson said there were also examples in the PRA’s evidence where oil companies were charging dealers far more for their petrol than nearby company owned sites, but this too had been ignored.
Following publication of the report the OFT has offered the PRA a de-brief meeting, and Madderson said he hoped as many as possible of the 75 dealers who submitted evidence would attend.
He said: "People who submitted detailed evidence of market abuse and that the markets were not working properly will want to find out why this has been completely ignored."