Ministers want to be “absolutely sure” that prices for domestic heating oil are not being fixed, the energy secretary has said.
Chris Huhne (pictured) said the government wanted to “get a grip” on the rapidly increasing prices for domestic heating oil.
The Office of Fair Trading is investigating whether the largest suppliers have been setting prices, amid claims consumers are paying upwards of 70p a litre, nearly double what was charged in the autumn.
“This is a key issue in rural areas and we have spent a lot of attention in the ministerial team looking at it,” Mr Huhne told MPs.
“We want to be absolutely sure that there is no exploitation going on, that the market is open and fair and that it is, in the long run, the best guarantee.”
He added there had been cross-party support for the investigation into heating oil prices.
OFTEC has welcomed the inquiry and told H&V News it will be submitting evidence to the Office of Fair Trading.
Director general Jeremy Hawksley said: “The harsh weather conditions that we experienced in December and January meant that some distributors struggled to deliver oil to customers in remote areas at a time when they needed it most.
“Reports in the press of isolated incidents where customers were unable to get oil sparked abnormally high levels of demand as people placed panic orders.
“The result of the increase in demand was to push up the price. Historically, oil has always been more expensive in December and the effect of the bad weather had an additional impact.
“OFTEC has always advised customers to fill up their oil tanks in July or August when prices are traditionally lower.”