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Filling stations deny price fixing

News

FAMILIAR SIGHT Petrol and diesel is now well over €2 at most stations in Mayo.


Oisín McGovern

FILLING station bosses in Mayo have denied that there is price-fixing among forecourt operators in the county.
In last week’s Mayo News, TD Michael Ring called on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to monitor price-fixing at filling stations around the country. “There certainly is [price fixing going on in Mayo], because there is no way that on the first of May there was no price increase, and yet all the petrol pumps around the country put it up,” Deputy Ring said.
However, forecourt operators who have spoken to The Mayo News as part of our analysis of record-high fuel prices have denied any such anti-competitive practices are taking place.
One operator who wanted their name withheld, said many filling stations were unable to immediately reduce their prices when the Government reduced excise duty a number of weeks ago. Many operators had to first sell the stock that had been purchased at a more-expensive price after the reduction had been introduced.
“They were left with [fuel] sitting in their tank and they were expected to drop their price by 15c or 20c in a business where it is difficult to make 5c [per litre in profit]. Look at the amount of money that was lost when that happened,” said the forecourt operator.
“Let … any other politician in the country come into these places on any given day and tell us what gouging is going on,” he added.
Another forecourt operator, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that retailers had to sell their stock according to the price they paid to wholesalers.
“There are so many factors, it’s just impossible to know [what the price will be]. They won’t tell us either. All we get from them is here’s your price today, here’s your price tomorrow’.”

‘Blind or stupid’
David Horgan, CEO of oil and gas exploration company Petrel Resources, described claims of price-fixing as ‘a bit dishonest’.
“Petrol is not a big margin in Ireland. The idea that people are price gouging, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence for it,” he told this newspaper.
“By law you have to publish all the prices. If you drive around England a lot places don’t publish their prices, so you don’t know what the price per litre is until you’ve filled up.
“If you are publishing your price it’s very difficult to price gouge. Unless people are blind or stupid. If they’re blind they shouldn’t be driving.”
Geesala-based county councillor Gerry Coyle, who owns Coyle’s Top outside Belmullet, said that filling stations were not ‘trying to rip people off’.
“I know that that filling station down there cannot break the barrier of X amount per litre. There is no one trying to rip anyone off, especially in rural areas because we are depending on those people to come back again tomorrow, the next week and the week after,” he said.