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Fuel price probe

A CALL for yet another Office of Fair Trading inquiry into fuel prices has received the backing of northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

The OFT is due to make a decision this month whether to continue its current investigation into fuel distribution in Shetland and the western isles, which began in January.

Meanwhile the national campaign group FairFuelUK (FFUK) has demanded the OFT step into the growing row over fuel price manipulation by the big fuel suppliers.

FFUK has handed in a petition saying the OFT should follow the example of US and European regulators who are carrying out such investigations.

Carmichael said: “We have heard allegations in recent years from whistleblowers that the oil industry actively engages in Libor-like oil price manipulation.

“It is about time that these rumours were fully investigated by the OFT so that we can get to the bottom of what is going on.”

He said the efforts being made by the UK government, of which he is apart, would be going to waste of oil companies were manipulating prices in the background.

Concerns were raised locally when the government introduced its 5p per litre discount for island and remote communities, only for the price to go up by 5p again almost instantly.

An OFT spokesman said they recognised petrol and diesel prices were cause for significant public concern.

He pointed out that a five month OFT study showed the UK had some of the cheapest fuel prices before tax in Europe, blaming high pump prices on tax increases and the cost of crude oil.

During that study the OFT found no credible evidence that prices were being manipulated.

Now, following a leak from a whistleblower, the European Commission has opened a cross border investigation into the market for crude oil, refined oil and biofuel, which is at an early stage.

The spokesman said the OFT was liaising closely with the EC, as well as the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority, to see if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation.

“We continue to welcome any new information about this market,” he said.

“Where we receive credible evidence of potentially anti-competitive behaviour, we will look to take action, as we have done in other markets – including our investigation into road fuel distribution in the Western Isles and Shetland Islands.”