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10th May 2010

EXPLANATION NEEDED FOR ESCALATING FUEL PRICES

The Consumer Council is calling on the fuel industry and Government to explain why Northern Ireland Consumers are now paying at least £10 more to fill their cars compared this time last year .

Aodhan O'Donnell, Director of Policy and Education at the Consumer Council said: "Petrol and diesel prices have remained at over £1.20 for two months now.  This is well above what drivers were paying this time last year.  In April 2009, it cost £47.88 to fill a 50L car with petrol and £50.76 with diesel.  It's now £12.51 more expensive to fill with petrol and £10.27 for diesel[1]

“It's not just motorists who are suffering but businesses too.  All our freight and goods are moved by road so it is having a crippling affect on an already struggling haulage industry.  Higher haulage costs are in turn filtered down to the consumer through higher food prices.

"The Consumer Council recognises that the weakness of sterling is adding to the problem and that wholesale costs have increased, yet in Northern Ireland we pay more for fuel than the rest of the UK and RoI.  In fact, Northern Ireland’s prices are among the highest in Europe.  Consumers do accept that fuel prices fluctuate but what they don't accept is a lack of consistency and clarity in pricing.  If we are being asked to pay an extra £10 for fuel compared to this time last year, we want to know why?” 

Turning to what needs to be done to curtail rising fuel prices here, Aodhan continued, “The industry needs to be more open and transparent in providing information which will demonstrate to drivers that they are paying a fair and reflective price for fuel.

"Not only should the fuel industry be playing fair but Government must also play its part in reducing this burden for consumers.  Over 60 per cent of what we pay at the pumps goes to Government in the form of duty and VAT.  With the outcome of a new election around the corner - it's a key time for our local politicians in Government to challenge these high prices in Westminster.

"The large supermarkets should also be doing right by their customers but Tesco and Sainsbury's apply a local pricing policy across their stores here.  Sainsbury's customers in Coleraine pay £1.17.9 at the pumps for petrol, yet in Craigavon they pay £1.21.9.  Tesco customers in Bangor pay £1.20.9 at the pumps for diesel, yet in Belfast (Yorkgate) they pay £1.22.9.  We call on Sainsbury's and Tesco to charge all their customers the same price for petrol and diesel, rather than up to a 4pence per litre (ppl) difference depending on where they live."

On the issue of how consumers can save money, Aodhan said, "The Consumer Council monitors the cheapest, average and dearest fuel prices across Northern Ireland and these figures are published weekly on our website, to view visit: www.consumercouncil.org.uk .   Alongside this practical tool, we regularly brief MLAs, MPs and MEPs setting out the key issues and trends within the fuel industry and the action needed at local and European level."

Notes to Editors:

  1. Further information is available in the Consumer Council’s MP/MLA Briefing Paper: Rising Petrol and Diesel prices II, available to download from : http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/publications/
  2. Consumer Council media contact: Gráinne Duffy, telephone, 028 9067 4813 or e-mail, [email protected]  
  3. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal and water.
  4. For more information, visit our website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk
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