OFT to start investigation

A fact-finding review announced by the Office of Fair Trading today (Friday) is unlikely to satisfy local fair fuel price campaigners.

The OFT is launching a review to ‘understand more about the challenges facing consumers and businesses in remote communities across the UK’ and is calling for evidence from the public in these areas to help inform its work.

They state that fuel prices are the most common cause for concern and that these will be included in their review. However local campaigners are calling for an investigation by the Competition Commission into the wholesale pricing policies of Scottish Fuels and also the chain of distribution and not a general investigation.

The OFT state: “The OFT recognises that prices of many goods and services are frequently higher in remote communities, there can be fewer suppliers available, and access to key services such as shops, dentists, chemists, banks and public transport can be limited. Fuel prices are a common cause for concern for those who need to travel long distances to get to school, to work or to the shops. Whilst shopping online may expand opportunities for broader choice and quality, deliveries to more isolated areas can sometimes be problematic or costly.”

The add: “The OFT will be seeking to explore these and other issues with communities and businesses in remote areas, with the aim of improving its, and others’, understanding of how consumer or competition law can help tackle them.”

Workshops will be held in seven locations including Highland and Shetland but not the Western Isles as part of the project.

Kyla Brand, OFT Director, said: “Geography and population density can have a major impact on the cost and accessibility of goods and services to consumers, and on how businesses operate. We want to get a clearer picture of these issues and understand and explain some of the reasons behind them. We also want to explore what the OFT, or other bodies could do to reduce the downsides, and maximise the benefits of remoteness.”Consumers and businesses wishing to contribute to the study are requested to send their views before 20 April to the OFT Office in Scotland, 23 Walker Street, Edinburgh EH3 7HX, fill in an online form available from www.oft.gov.uk/remcom or email remotecommunities@oft.gsi.gov.uk.

The OFT expects to publish the outcome of this call for evidence by July.