'Fair' report adds fuel to £47bn row

YOU'LL be relieved at the Office of Fair Trading's verdict that we're not being ripped off at the petrol pumps.

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After a four-month investigation, the consumer watchdog concluded UK fuel prices are, in fact, fair.

They couldn't find any dodgy marketing or trading between oil companies and retailers.

According to the OFT, when crude oil prices go up the cost of fuel doesn't rise faster than Usain Bolt's knees, nor does it fall slower than a Scottish goalkeeper when those crude prices come down.

Nobody is cashing in on the fluctuations in price. It's all in our imagination.

Britain's 35 million hacked-off motorists have no reason for complaint, despite paying almost record prices at the pumps.

The UK motoring organisations, which for years have demanded more transparency in the fuel business, are apparently in the wrong lane.

UK energy minister Baroness Verma, backed by politicians from all sides, is mistaken when she says we're being ripped off.

Move along, says the OFT, there's nothing to see here. No serious inquiry into the UK fuel market is necessary, because it's working well.

It's worth a stonking £47billion-a-year, so of course it works well – for the exchequer and the oil producers and the retailers. Certainly not for Joe Public, who has been held over an oil barrel for years.

It's not our imagination that petrol prices have almost doubled between 2003 and 2012. It's a fact.

The OFT tell us that fuel is so expensive because of the taxes levied by the Treasury. Of the £1.42 average cost of a litre of diesel, 82p goes to HMRC in tax and fuel duty, 55p to the producers, and about 5p to the retailer.

Shamefully, we pay VAT on that fuel duty – a 20% tax on a tax! But tax is only half the story.

The OFT may have looked for four months, but did they ask the right questions?

With some of the lowest wholesale prices in Europe, why does the UK have the highest price at the pump?

Why only in the UK is diesel more expensive than unleaded?

Why can motorway stations charge 7.5p- a-litre more for petrol and 8.3p more for diesel? Why can supermarket chains charge different prices in stores 10 miles apart?

And a whole four months? This is the same OFT that chose to flex its muscles with a year-long probe into, wait for it, gym membership.

Their subsequent crackdown on fitness chains makes a mockery of their later reluctance to tackle the supermarkets.

Now they are running scared of the oil companies.

As AA president Edmund King says: "On this issue of transparency the OFT report is a bit of a whitewash."

If there is no dodgy trading, if the price indeed is right, then let them publish the wholesale and retail fuel prices and silence the moaning motorist once and for all.

No, I don't reckon they would, either.

:: A YEAR ago, the Trussell Trust charity set up a network of UK food banks. Some 150,000 people – 7000 Scots – survived only with their help.


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