Watchdog halts probe into fuel market

Motorists seeking a better deal on their fuel have suffered a blow with the news the Office of Fair Trading has opted to end its investigation into the Shetland fuel market.

The competition watchdog insists it has found “insufficient evidence” of market manipulation here and has brought to a close its probe into the fuel market in the isles.

At the same time the body is consulting on its investigation into the Western Isles’ market.

The OFT insists it would be happy to reopen its investigation here if any evidence comes to light, but that has come of little crumb of comfort for island politicians.

A statement released today from the consumer protection organisation said further investigation into the local market was unwarranted.

“The OFT has also carried out a preliminary investigation of specific aspects of Certas’ [new branding for GB Oils] conduct in the Shetland Islands.

“Having assessed the evidence that it has gathered to date, the OFT considers that the likelihood of a successful case outcome resulting from further investigation of Certas’ conduct in the Shetland Islands does not justify the expenditure of resources that such further investigation would require.

“Accordingly, the OFT has decided to close that aspect of its investigation for reasons of administrative priority. If any new evidence is provided to the OFT then this decision will be reviewed.”

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott have expressed disappointment at the decision.

Mr Carmichael said more answers were needed from the OFT.

“I have spoken directly to the OFT in Edinburgh and I share the disappointment of local people that they have not been able to find the evidence that they feel is necessary.

“I have asked them to put in writing the nature and extent of evidence that they would require and also what evidence they have found in the Western Isles that justifies further action there.

“Once we have that detail it may be possible to gather further local evidence which would justify OFT action. In the meantime, however, we shall have to keep a close eye on the Western Isles to see what happens with the investigation there.”

Mr Scott added: “Once again OFT have put Certas [the previous branding of GB Oils] before Shetlanders buying expensive petrol and diesel. The OFT are proposing to consult on Certas’ proposals. A so-called independent competition authority is now doing the distribution businesses job for them. This consultation is a smokescreen.

“Despite Alistair Carmichael’s work in introducing a 5p cut in petrol tax – something no other government has ever done – we still pay a huge premium for buying petrol in Shetland. “It is deeply disappointing that once again the OFT support the distribution company and not islanders.”


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