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Watchdog Sees No Lack of Competition in U.K. Gasoline Market

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Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s competition watchdog said increases in the price of crude oil and higher taxes, rather than a lack of competition among gasoline stations, are to blame for the higher prices paid by drivers over the last decade.

The Office of Fair Trading said pump prices for gasoline increased to 1.26 pounds ($1.99) a liter in 2012 from 76 pence in 2003 and diesel rose to 1.42 pounds a liter from 78 pence. The increase was driven by a 24-pence rise in tax and duty and a 33-pence increase in the price of crude.

“We recognize that there has been widespread mistrust in how this market is operating,” Chief Executive Officer Clive Maxwell said in statement on the watchdog’s website. “Our call for information has not identified any evidence of anti-competitive behavior in the fuel market at a national level, where competition appears to be strong.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne last month delayed a rise in fuel duty in order to appease voters who are being squeezed by stagnating wages and higher living costs. The OFT said that, while there was no evidence of collusion at a national level among filling stations, it had detected some price fixing in some areas and pledged to take action.

The OFT also said the cost of fuel before tax is cheaper in the U.K. than in many other parts of Europe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gonzalo Vina in London at gvina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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