The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has today issued a call for information on the UK petrol and diesel sector in response to continued public concern over pump prices.

RMI Petrol Retailers’ Association (PRA) has been chasing for a full enquiry into the fuel retailing sector since January. This formal call for evidence follows the OFT’s announcement in June that its provisional position was not to launch a full investigation, but instead requested further evidence from the PRA.

The OFT has said it wants to identify whether or not there are competition problems that it can tackle in the sector, and is inviting the industry, motoring groups and consumer bodies to submit information.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said: “This is fantastic news for PRA retailers and members. PRA has continued to have a dialogue with the OFT and supply evidence but this is a significant step forward on the path to a full market study.

“The OFT has now acknowledged that it’s been 14 years since the last study into the retail fuels market and given new claims about unfair practices and pricing, as well as fuel prices continuing to rise, it has felt that on reflection, now is the time to take a proactive stance,” added Madderson. “We will be meeting with them in about a week to discuss the format of the evidence and the next steps.”

The OFT has said it will explore whether reductions in the price of crude oil are being reflected in falling pump prices, and if practices adopted by supermarkets and major oil companies may be making it more difficult for independent retailers to compete with them.

In addition, it will look into whether there is a lack of competition between fuel retailers in some remote communities in the UK, and if concerns about price co-ordination and the structure of road fuels markets identified by other national competition authorities are relevant in the UK.

Claire Hart, director of the OFT’s Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said: “We are keenly aware of continuing widespread concern about the pump price of petrol and diesel and we have heard a number of different claims about how the market is operating.

“We have therefore decided to take a broad-based look at this sector, to provide an opportunity for people to share their concerns and evidence with us. This will help us determine whether claims about competition problems are well-founded and whether any further action is warranted.”

The OFT will be gathering information over the next six weeks, and plans to publish its findings in January 2013.

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