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pay at the pump

Fuel price crisis: Industry denies profiteering as hauliers set to receive €100-a-week grant

Micheál Martin said there was concern across Europe at high fuel prices, as Paschal Donohoe said he backed Martin’s comments.

LAST UPDATE | 11 Mar 2022

FUEL INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES have said it was “never going to be the case” that the government’s cut it excise duty reduce customer prices immediately, as the Taoiseach said that a rise in fuel prices across Europe was “beyond what it should be”.

Industry representative body Fuels For Ireland has written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin complaining that a “false impression” was given by government and that claims of profiteering were “simply not the case”. 

Speaking yesterday in Versaille, Martin described fuel price fixing as “morally reprehensible” in the context of the war and asked anyone with evidence to pass it onto the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC). 

The CCPC has said it is investigating a number of complaints about fuel pricing but Fuels For Ireland has said price increases since it was revealed the Government would subsidise the cost were due to wholesale costs. 

In recent days, people have been sharing photos on social media, showing sharp, seemingly overnight increases in petrol and diesel prices at their local service stations ahead of the government’s well-flagged decision to cut excise duty on fuel.

In a letter to Martin, Fuels For Ireland CEO Kevin McPartlan said it was “offensive” to suggest that members were “profiteering from the tragic plight of the people of Ukraine”. 

He is seeking that Martin clarify his remarks. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, McPartlan added that it was “misleading” of the government to suggest that prices for consumers would instantly reduce. 

“They told consumers that they should have impact from midnight on the night of the announcement. That was incorrect because every single drop of fuel that was on the forecourt of midnight had already had the duty paid at the higher level. So it was completely unrealistic to tell people that they should see a decrease straight away,” he said. 

McPartlan said it is “to be expected” that prices should come down over the coming days.

This analysis also also provided by Transport Minister Eamon Ryan yesterday, who said there is likely to be a lag of a number of days when the excise cut may be visible to consumers.

McPartlan added that if the Taoiseach thinks there’s profiteering going on “he’s mistaken”: 

I think he’s got this one wrong. We are having a meeting this afternoon with a number of ministers and I do hope that it will better inform commentary from government and the policy that they develop in the in the coming days. 

 

When the Taoiseach was asked about the comments again today by reporters in Versailles, Micheál Martin said concerns around price fixing were echoed around Europe.

“What I said very clearly, and I said it at the parliamentary party meeting where a number of deputies were reporting in instances of where prices had gone up even in advance of the government decision to cut excise, I simply said if anyone is engaging in price fixing or whatever like that, it is a matter for the Competition and Consumer Authority to investigate.

At this meeting [of EU leaders] here, there was a lot of discussion around how, notwithstanding some difficulty in the market, the escalation in prices is above and beyond what it should be.

“That’s why there is a focus at EU level on the market and on the pricing mechanism. Minister McGrath and others are meeting with the industry today and we look forward to a constructive engagement on that.”

Earlier today, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he “fully stands by” Martin’s comments on alleged fuel price gouging following denials from the industry.

Asked about the disagreement between government and the fuel industry this morning, the Minister for Finance said the cut to Excise Duty up until August must be seen to benefit consumers. 

“I fully stand by the Taoiseach and his comments earlier in the week. We have now invested over €300 million in taxpayers money at a time of a huge risk for all of us and we need to ensure that every cent of that makes a difference at the pump,” Donohoe said. 

Hauliers

The ongoing concerns over fuel costs has seen the government launch a temporary grant scheme that will provide a payment of €100 per week for the driver of every heavy goods vehicle. 

The scheme only applies to HGVs with a road haulage licence and will last for a period of eight weeks. The estimated cost of the scheme to the taxpayer is €18 million. 

In a statement today, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said that after meeting with Irish Road Haulage Association “it was abundantly clear that government needed to provide immediate support” to the sector. 

- With reporting by Gráinne Ni Aodha in Versailles

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