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    Competition watchdog to be granted new powers to tackle unfair fuel prices

    Pumps at a petrol station in the North East of England. (Photo: iStock)

    The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be granted new powers to monitor the road fuel market and protect consumers from unfair prices.

    Under new amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition & Consumers Bill, tabled on November 15, the CMA will become the body responsible for closely monitoring road fuel prices and reporting any sign of malpractice to the government.

    Fuel retailers, including supermarkets, will be forced to come clean on how much they are charging customers on their forecourts versus their profits. Those that fail to comply could face a fixed fine from the watchdog of up to one per cent of their worldwide turnover, or an ongoing fine of up to five per cent of daily turnover.

    Energy security secretary Claire Coutinho has cautioned retailers that she will not hesitate to hold them to account, if there is any evidence of unfairly hiking up prices and holding back savings from UK motorists.

    “At a time when many were struggling with increased living costs, we saw shocking behaviour from some fuel retailers who failed to pass on savings at the pump,” Coutinho said.

    “Now we are cracking down on any petrol station bosses found to be unfairly hiking up their prices. That’s why we’re giving the CMA new powers to bring fairness back to the forecourts and make sure UK drivers get a competitive fuel price.”

    The warning follows a report from the CMA earlier this year that revealed some supermarkets had failed to pass on savings in oil prices – charging drivers 6p more per litre for fuel, which amounted to £900 million in extra costs in 2022 alone.

    Last week, the CMA published their first road fuel monitoring report – which found that there may be some early signs the road fuel market is not working as it should be, but it is too early to confirm.

    Although many retailers have voluntarily increased transparency of their costs and returns, the CMA also revealed that Shell and Moto-way had failed to meet their information requests, despite calls from the energy security secretary to do so.

    On top of this, twelve of the biggest retailers, including all four fuel-selling supermarkets, have already signed up to the CMA’s voluntary scheme to share daily price data – allowing news outlets and websites to create price comparison tools for customers to easily compare costs.

    The government is progressing plans to make this legal requirement for fuel retailers to share daily price information that will help customers to easily shop around for deals. A consultation on the design of government’s open data scheme is due to launch this autumn.

    “I’m pleased to see many retailers cooperate with the CMA so far, to share their price information and bring competition back to our petrol stations,” Amanda Solloway, minister for energy consumer and affordability, said.

    “I now urge comparison sites and others to get onboard to help UK motorists find the best local price for their fuel.”

    The CMA will receive its new information gathering powers through amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill – which is expected to come into force later next year.

    The watchdog will use the information gathered from retailers to provide regular public updates on the state of competition in the UK fuel market, as well as report any evidence of unjustified price increases so the government can hold retailers to account.

    Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said: “We welcome this new responsibility and will use it to hold fuel retailers to account. The CMA is determined to revitalise competition in this sector so drivers can be confident they are getting the best price possible when they fill up their vehicles.”

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