A series of recent price rises in fuel in the Western Isles has angered island-based
campaigners, Fair Fuel Solutions (FFS).
Nearly 5p a gallon has been added to pump prices this week meaning fuel is at least
£1 a gallon more expensive in the islands compared to the mainland.
Fair Fuel Solutions lodged the first submission - a document of nearly 3,000 words
- to the Office for Fair Trading which has called for views in a bid to find out
what evidence there was of profiteering and discriminatory pricing policies by those
in the fuel supply chain.
In it, the group sets out a catalogue of evidence which, it says, shows that the
differential between mainland centres like Inverness and Orkney, Shetland and the
Western Isles is not just still there - but increasing at an alarming rate.
FFS says that on September 3, standard unleaded petrol was selling at 16p per litre
more in Stornoway that at the independent Kessock Filling Station in Inverness. It
was only 13p more expensive in Kirkwall but 20p a litre more in Lerwick.
Today (Tues) the three Stornoway filling stations are selling unleaded petrol at
148.9p a litre while diesel is 152.9p per litre.
The three Stornoway filling stations have all increased their prices by a penny in
the last few days but campaigners say no such pattern has been observed elsewhere.
FFS has also slammed the recent Office of Fair Trading report for failing to recommend
action following its own survey of prices in the north of Scotland which confirmed
the big differential and also found that many retailers were also increasing their
The hard-hitting submission by the campaigners is the group's response to May's OFT
report and includes recent surveys of prices in the three island groups. It is also
extremely critical of the OFT for not responding to what it says is profiteering
which, it claims, poses a threat to the islands' economies for generations to come.
Callum Ian Macmillan of FFS said they had also sent evidence to the OFT that someone
in the fuel chain was pocketing the 5p per litre fuel derogation announced by the
government earlier this year.
He said: "The price fell by 5p but only for a matter of days as retailers in the
Western Isles were faced with a 4p per litre wholesale increase which did not occur
in other areas.
"We have not been made aware of any mechanism being put in place to stop profiteering
by those in the supply chain and we are of the justifiable belief that self-regulation
by the key players has not worked in the past and that it will not work in the future."
He said FFS was calling for a high-level investigation into the alleged profiteering
as a matter of urgency but were not sure that the OFT was fit-for-purpose to be able
to carry it out.
"The OFT keeps trumpeting how successful it is yet there is currently no pressure
on these fuel companies to explain how much they each take from the cost of one litre
of fuel. Therefore, they charge what they like - because they can. They are very
confident they can get away with it because the watchdog which should be making them
accountable is really not much use.
"The OFT should be carrying out forensic examinations of these companies' claims
but it just takes them at their word every time. Until we get proper scrutiny by
committed inspectors, little will happen until the government finally decides the
present ripoffs cannot continue.
"So far, most of the politicians currently in office are only prepared to talk about
the problem and make promises without actually doing anything to solve it," said
FFS has also vowed to provide the OFT with further evidence of alleged price fixing
and uncompetitive practices by companies in the supply chain in recent years but
it has demanded that anonymity be granted by the OFT to the people who could be putting
their livelihood at risk by providing that material.