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Written Answers. - Petrol Prices.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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 188. Mr. D. Ahern Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton  the reason unleaded petrol is approximately 6 pence per litre cheaper in the Dundalk area of County Louth in comparison with the price, for example, in the Limerick area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9251/96]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is no doubt aware, official price control on petrol and auto diesel products was discontinued on 1 October 1991 with the entry into force of the Competition Act, 1991. It is significant that during the 18 year period prior to then when price control applied to these products, the relevant maximum prices orders allowed for significant price differentials per litre, in case of deliveries pursuant to one or more sales of 455 litres or more, or alternatively of sales of less than 455 litres at a time.

The decision by the then Minister to remove price control on petrol and auto diesel was predicated on the security against anti-competitive practices which the Competition Act, 1991 provides. I propose to strengthen competition law, through the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 1994, by giving the Competition Authority powers of enforcement and by enabling the courts to impose stiff fines on those found to be engaging in unfair competition. I intend to seek to have the Bill, which has completed Committee Stage in the Dáil, enacted at an early date.

Finally, in its recent report on the proposal by Statoil to acquire Conoco, the Competition Authority commented that with the abolition of price control and price surveillance, there is now a much greater degree of price variability in the petrol market, including differences in intra brand and inter brand prices, between different areas and at different times. The authority noted that, in some cases, the difference between the highest and lowest price for a particular brand and grade can be as [195] low as 0.3p per litre or over 9p per litre. The cheapest price for one brand and grade can be 10p per litre or more below the highest price for the same grade of another brand on the same date in different parts of the country, although local price differentials tend to be much lower.

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