The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to investigate soaring petrol and diesel prices amid concerns that car drivers are being ripped-off at the fuel pumps.
The OFT has asked the motor industry and consumer organisations to submit evidence about high pump prices. In particular it wants to investigate whether:
•lower crude oil prices are being reflected in pump prices
•supermarket and oil company practices are making difficult for independent retailers to compete
•there is a shortage of competition between fuel retailers in rural communities
•concerns about price co-ordination and the structure of road fuels markets identified in other countries are relevant in the UK.
Claire Hart, director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said: 'We are keenly aware of widespread concern about the pump price of petrol and diesel.
'We have therefore decided to take a broad-based look at this sector, to help us determine whether any further action is warranted.'
The OFT action comes a week after the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) called for the Government to follow the French administration in cutting fuel prices.
The French Government and the major oil companies have agreed to cut prices for three months to help cash-strapped drivers.
Independent fuel stations and the Taxpayers' Alliance, meanwhile, are claiming that taxes make up 60% of petrol and diesel pump prices. They are calling for the Government to cut fuel duty by 5p per litre over five years.
Brian Madderson, PRA chairman, said: 'Fuel tax unfairly penalises low income earners, single families and rural communities that often have poor public transport alternatives.'
The OFT said it plans to publish the findings of its fuel price investigation in January 2013.