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Fury at petrol price rigging inquiry

A British MP has reacted angrily to news that EU investigators have raided Shell and BP over suspicions of oil price market rigging, just months after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published a report that claimed the fuel market was working well.

A British MP has reacted angrily to news that EU investigators have raided Shell and BP over suspicions of oil price market rigging, just months after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published a report that claimed the fuel market was working well. Back in January, the OFT said that there was no need for a full enquiry despite numerous complaints from the fuel retailers themselves that the prices they were paying to the oil companies seemed to dip and spike without explanation. Those major oil companies are now being investigated by the European Commission amidst fears that they have for years been misreporting oil prices with a subsequent 'huge impact' on the price of fuel.

Investigators fear that the oil market may have been fixed for more than ten years, with a potential bill to drivers of thousands of pounds in falsely inflated fuel costs. Figures show that petrol prices have risen dramatically over this time, now standing at an average of £1.35 per litre, which is up 80% on 2002 figures. Speaking on BBC breakfast news on May 15, Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, said that the original OFT investigation was 'pretty shocking' and described events in the oil market as 'seriously murky'. He commented: "Last year we urged the Office of Fair Trading to launch a full inquiry into alleged price fixing by oil companies. I had a whistleblower approach me with a dossier which we put up on our website called petrolpromise.com and sadly nothing was done. The Office of Fair Trading did a limp-wristed lettuce leaf-type inquiry and they should have had a full inquiry. Now we've left it up to the EU to take action."

Chairman of the Petrol Retailers' Association (PRA), Brian Madderson, warned that the price fixing could have cost UK motorists 'thousands of pounds each' during this period. He also revealed that the PRA had warned UK regulators that the oil price appeared to have been manipulated and claimed that an 8p rise in petrol prices last winter could not be explained by the normal rules of supply and demand.

Senior Lib Dem spokesman, Lord Oakeshott added: "All credit to the European Commission for taking action if they have evidence of collusion, but why have we had to wait for Brussels to find out if British oil giants are ripping off British consumers? I will be putting down parliamentary questions asking who has UK regulatory responsibility for ensuring fair and open competition in the oil market and what action they have taken in the past 5 years to investigate and enforce it."
 

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