The Forum of Private Business has said allegations certain oil companies may have colluded on price rigging for years will not come as a shock to many small firms.
The not-for-profit employer support organisation, who in January voiced concern at the OFT’s own price fixing investigation which found nothing, said high fuel prices had played a significant part in subduing UK economic activity since the credit crisis erupted in 2008, and if found to be true were a scandal on par with Libor.
“If these price rigging allegations are found to be true, then they are as serious as the Libor or bank swaps scandals,” said the Forum’s policy adviser, Robert Downes.
“Post crash, rocketing pump prices blighted the UK and put a massive hole in the finances of many small businesses, particular those who rely heavily on fuel.
“This latest investigation by a non-UK body will also raise questions around the OFT’s operation which started last year if it does eventually finds wrong doing.
“Our members, and no doubt most of the country’s businesses that operate vehicles, will be incandescent if what many have long suspected – that is price fixing – proves to be true. And who can blame them.”
Forum member Tracey Hoather, who owns courier firm Sameday Plc, based in Cheshire, said: “This isn’t a surprise at all. If society and economists want to support large conglomerates and trade guilds this is what you get – surreptitious agreements not to compete with each other on price.
“It’s in the government’s interest to keep the price high too, so they aren’t interested. It’s just like energy companies paying out enormous salaries in what is a monopolised industry, whilst pensioners are shivering. Nothing will be done about it,” she added.
The Forum said the number of its members who have taken up their fuel card offering in order to save cash on petrol and diesel bills has risen dramatically in the past five years, which showed businesses were feeling the pinch more than ever from high forecourt prices.
“It’s no surprise that as fuel costs rose from less than a pound a litre in 2008 to nearly £1.50 in the space of a year, firms were desperately looking to make savings any way they could. We know fuel costs are like an anchor on small business growth, especially for those firms who rely on fuel to trade.
“We’ve been able to save some firms more than a thousand pounds a month on fuel costs, and naturally they are delighted. We can save businesses cash here, so for those that haven’t looked at this option, we strongly urge them to do so.”
The Forum offers all members from intermediate upwards the fuel card for free, with a choice of branded cards including Texaco, Shell, and Esso. There are no contracts involved and users can access HMRC-approved VAT invoices.
For more information: 0845 130 1722