The Consumer Association of Ireland has proposed a three point action plan to Government to assist motorists who have been hit hard by high and sustained petrol and diesel prices in recent months.
The Fuel Watch Ireland Initiative consists of firstly, a statutory fuel price database where all service stations in the state would be legally required to register their current prices so that consumers could check online where the cheapest prices in their locality are available. Fuel Watch Ireland would be based on the very successful Fuel Watch database in Western Australia ( http://www.fuelwatch.wa.gov.au/ ) which is now being expanded across Australia. Legislation would be required to ensure all service stations comply with the scheme.
The second part of the action plan is to investigate and determine if Irish fuel prices have increased in the last 12 months in line with global prices and to determine if wholesale price decreases have been passed on to consumers in a speedy manner.
The third part of the plan is to put in place an information campaign designed to advise motorists on how by their actions and driving they can increase their fuel efficiency and reduce their petrol/diesel costs.
We know that the average price of petrol has increased by 39% in the last 4 years from 93.8 cent per litre in June 2004 to 129.8 in June 2008, while the average price of diesel has increased by a massive 64% in the same period from 85.3 cent per litre in 2004 to 139.9 cent per litre in June 2008.
“These increases are hitting motorists hard and despite repeated calls by CAI and others on Government to reduce excise and VAT on petrol/diesel they have refused to take any action to date. In our view it is vital that Government do something practical to assist motorists to get the best price at the pumps. We believe our proposal to set up a fuel watch website would do just that and have the added benefit of stimulating greater competition” stated James Doorley.
There are a number of websites which already provide information on petrol and diesel prices and those running these websites must be commended for the assistance and information they provide. However there is no obligation on the service stations to cooperate with these websites and as a result they don’t include all stations and since they depend on information being provided by motorists in many cases the prices are not always up to date.
A statutory website along the lines we are proposing would include all stations and would ensure that the information provided was up to date. For those without access to the internet a free phone service could be made available to provide the relevant information to consumers.
CAI also believes that the Government should commission a study to investigate whether fuel prices in Ireland have increased in line with global wholesale prices or if price increases here have surpassed these prices. The CAI also think it would be useful to examine the extent to which price decreases have been passed onto the consumer at the pump as quickly as price increases appear to be.
While the CAI says that it has no evidence to indicate that this is so, but given the significant price fluctuations in price in the last year, it is important to make sure that the current volatile market situation is not being exploited further.
The Consumer Association of Ireland is further recommending that Government should develop and distribute practical information to all motorists on the national vehicle register on how they can maximise their fuel efficiency. All registered vehicle owners could be sent a leaflet and this information could also be put online.
“While promoting alternatives to car use is a good idea, in many cases these options are not always feasible for many people, therefore we believe that providing practical information to motorists on how they can maximize fuel usage even when using their car would not only be good for the pocket, but also kinder on the environment” stated James Doorley.
While this leaflet could outline the options for reducing car use, it would also provide information on how motorists could reduce fuel use even while using their car. It would cover areas such as servicing, speed and driving patterns, tyre type etc which could assist motorists to maximise fuel efficiency. CAI believes that such information could be easily assembled with the assistance of motoring experts.
“It is time for the Government which is actually benefiting from higher fuel prices as it generates increased VAT receipts to do something to assist motorists given the cost of fuel. There is a perception that Government is fiddling while fuel bills burn a big hole in all our incomes. Our practical proposals would in some way go to assist motorists to better manage their fuel costs and foster competition” concluded James Doorley.