fuel pump in tank

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has been branded ‘complacent’ and accused of carrying out a ‘continued whitewash’ after insisting that its study last year of the UK fuel market yielded no credible evidence of any market manipulation.

Responding to a petition handed into it on Monday (15 July) by campaign group FairFuelUK, the OFT issued a statement saying it recognised the price of fuel was “a subject of significant public concern” but that it had not received “credible evidence” of any price manipulation. It also said that road fuels in the UK were “among the cheapest in Europe” before tax.

Robert Halfon MP said the OFT was being “complacent in the extreme”, however. “I think it’s very sad the OFT is ignoring public opinion and ignoring parliamentary opinion. It is clear they need to look at this issue again because the public know that something is wrong,” he told Motortransport.co.uk.

Howard Cox, co-founder of FairFuelUK, said he was “massively disappointed” by the OFT’s response, suggesting that the EC, which recently launched its own investigation into possible price-fixing, must have had some evidence in hand to carry out its recent raids on the offices of a number of firms in the oil sector. “We strongly feel it is a continued whitewash,” he added.

Further criticism of the OFT’s reaction came from the Petrol Retailers’ Association, a spokeswoman for which said it was “very disappointed”; and the Road Haulage Association, whose chief executive Geoff Dunning said it was a “great pity” the OFT’s response was not more positive, adding: “It would appear we will now have to wait and hope for a more positive outcome from the European Commission.”

Cox said FairFuelUK would not be giving up on its campaign for a full OFT investigation, however, and is already talking to “several MPs who are equally frustrated to explore other avenues to bring the OFT to account”.