Among the 200 complaints filed with a consumer protection agency in the last two weeks are allegations that service stations have raised fuel prices to boost profits and shut down curbside price tags.
Jeremy Godfrey, Chairman of the Commission on Competition and Consumer Protection, will announce today that an investigation is underway to assess evidence that could point to collusion.
The Commission is a statutory authority that enforces competition and consumer protection law. Your investigations may result in criminal prosecution.
Mr. Godfrey will tell an Oireachtas committee that in the past two weeks it has received nearly 200 complaints from the public and public officials about fuel prices.
He will also say he has written to a trade association and two fuel companies about the competitive risks of making public statements about future price increases.
Mr Godfrey will generally say that the complaints allege that petrol stations did not pass on an excise duty reduction in a ‘timely’ manner.
They also claim that they have taken advantage of the current economic situation to increase fuel prices and boost profits.
“Some complaints include allegations of collusion and some little information about price movements at certain gas stations,” he will say.
In his opening remarks to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Business, Trade and Employment, the commission said the commission had also received complaints about claims that roadside price tags had been switched off at petrol stations.
Mr Godfrey will say that the war in Ukraine has increased pressure on the cost of living, which has put upward pressure on petrol and diesel prices.
“This affects all consumers and has a particularly strong impact on vulnerable members of society,” he will say. “We fully appreciate the fear and concern they are feeling.
“We also recognize that recent fuel price concerns may be repeated in relation to the prices of other products affected by the war and subsequent economic sanctions.”
His explanation comes as committee chair Maurice Quinlivan said many petrol stations were now charging more than €2 a litre.
Mr Quinlivan said there had been calls for the Commission to investigate alleged price gouging.
The Commission investigates suspected infringements of competition or consumer protection law and can take enforcement measures.
This can range from the transmission of a file to the public prosecutor’s office (DPP) for criminal prosecution in the case of the most serious cartel behavior to fines or administrative offenses for violations of consumer protection law.
Mr Godfrey will urge anyone who has specific information about collusion or an infringement of competition or consumer protection laws to provide it to the Commission.
He will say that whistleblowers who have information about cartels can provide information anonymously.
A company or individual who is the first to provide information to a cartel may seek immunity from prosecution.
Penalties for other cartel members found guilty of violating competition laws include hefty fines and up to 10 years in prison.
Mr Godfrey will say that the Commission is assessing the complaints it has received about fuel prices at the pump.
“We will make our work in this area as transparent as possible,” he will tell the committee.
Meanwhile, the head of the national electricity grid warned of “very, very significant risks” regarding the impact of the war in Ukraine on gas supplies for power generation.
Mark Foley, Chief Executive of Eirgrid, addressed the Dáil’s Environment and Climate Protection Committee yesterday.
“None of us predicted that four weeks ago. This makes the situation more complex and leads to very, very significant risks for the future.
“We are very involved and trying to assess what our contingencies are if there are gas supply disruptions.”
Mr. Foley repeated calls for an energy-efficient drive.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/watchdog-to-probe-alleged-price-fixing-of-fuel-after-200-complaints-from-the-public-41477232.html Watchdog is investigating alleged fuel price fixing after 200 complaints from the public