Kent small business leaders' disappointment over Office of Fair Trading fuel probe
The Office of Fair
Trading investigated petrol prices
by business editor Trevor Sturgess
Competition watchdogs have fuelled disappointment among Kent
business leaders today at their decision not to launch a full
probe into fuel pricing.
An investigation into the soaring cost of petrol and diesel has
concluded retailers are not ripping off drivers.
The Office of Fair Trading looked into the UK fuel market
after allegations prices went up quickly when oil prices increased,
but were slow to follow them down.
The Federation of Small Businesses said it was deeply
disappointed. Roger House, Kent and Medway chairman (pictured
right), said the OFT report was bad news for small firms dependent
on their vehicles for everyday business activities.
"In recent years, we have seen a remorseless increase in the
price of fuel that is paid at the pumps," he said. "This is set to
rise with wholesale costs having risen by 5p since Christmas.
"We believe there is a clear disconnect between wholesale fuel
prices and the price hard-pressed motorists are forced to pay at
the pump. When the price of oil increases fuel price rises follow
soon afterwards, but reductions in the wholesale price are not
being passed on when it falls."
Mr House added too many of the county's small firms were
having to pass on rising costs to customers. Research
showed three-quarters of members believed their business was
being "negatively impacted by the high cost of fuel".
Mr House urged "tough action against those who are profiting at
the expense of road dependent small businesses".
However, he welcomed the OFT's highlighting of the high price of
fuel at motorway service stations.
Folkestone-based Peter Carroll, who set up Fair Fuel UK two
years ago to campaign for cheaper prices at the pump, said he was
Mr Carroll said: "I am actually just quite shocked and stunned at
"I'm wondering what the word fair means in the Office of Fair
Trading. They've let the country down."
Angus Elphinstone, founder of delivery auction website
Anyvan.com, accused the OFT of reaching a depressingly predictable
conclusion - motorway service stations are too expensive.
He said: "They could have saved themselves a lot of time by
asking any of the millions of motorists who sigh when the fuel
light comes on when they're on a motorway.
"Most of us buy fuel from a motorway garage in much the same way
as we settle into the dentist's chair. Unwillingly and with gritted
"This investigation has achieved very little, other than to
leave UK motorists and businesses with the feeling that they’ve
been shortchanged yet again."