Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Dara Calleary has called for the newly constituted Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to make a statement on the operation of the retail market for petrol and diesel in the light of growing concern about persistent high prices at the pumps.

“Customers will be aware that crude oil prices have fallen by 50% since June of this year. However from looking at the AA website it can be seen that diesel prices have fallen from an average of 146.8c a litre in June to around 130c now, a drop of 11%. Petrol has fallen by about 10% over the same period. The rate at which reductions have been passed on can be described as tardy at best,” commented Deputy Calleary.

“We get well-rehearsed arguments from the petrol retailers that fixed taxes make a considerable proportion of the cost of petrol and diesel. That is undoubtedly a major factor but does not adequately explain the delay in falling crude oil prices being passed on to customers. We are also told that forward prices agreements limit their scope to reduce prices quickly in response to market movements. Consumers will be left with the nagging feeling that prices tend to go up much faster than they fall.

“The SEAI have estimated that Ireland imports €6bn a year in fossil fuels with petrol and diesel being the largest single category. Motorists, electricity customers and consumers generally should be reaping the benefits of these falling oil prices. However markets often appear to work against the interests of consumers. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission can play a role by examining the validity of arguments around the continuing high prices. In so doing it can provide reassurance to motorists that there is a fair and functioning market. Should they find that this is not the case, it can make appropriate recommendations for action to be taken. The European Commission has already instigated an investigation into practices in the oil sector, a separate process at national level in Ireland would complement this,” noted Deputy Calleary.

“There has been a significant reduction in the number of petrol stations operating in the country in the last ten years. Dublin city centre has an acute shortage of filling stations and many areas have seen garages sold off for property development. This has robbed communities of what is arguably a critical piece of infrastructure. This has undoubtedly reduced competition and led to increased prices.  Any investigation of the retail market for petrol and diesel should take in to account how the needs of consumers can be protected in the planning process by ensuring that areas are not left bereft of filling stations”.