Fuels for Ireland, the industry body for fuel suppliers and retailers, has written to Taoiseach Mícheál Martin to express its members’ deep unhappiness at what it claims have been misleading statements about the sector.
The organisation also said that comments made by Mr Martin suggesting the actions of the organisation’s members were morally reprehensible should be clarified or withdrawn.
In the letter seen by RTÉ News, Fuels for Ireland CEO Kevin McPartlan said it is “simply not the case” that Fuels for Ireland members had been engaged in any sort of profiteering.
“To perpetuate the myth that Fuels for Ireland members are profiteering from the tragic plight of the people of Ukraine and the threat to peace in Europe is offensive,” he wrote.
Yesterday, as he arrived for a two-day EU Summit in Versailles, the Taoiseach told reporters that any price gouging by fuel retailers following the excise cut was “morally reprehensible” in the context of a barbaric war and he called on it to cease.
His comments came amid claims that some fuel retailers had increased their prices on Wednesday morning, ahead of the announcement by the Government of a 15 cent cut in excise on diesel and a 20 cent reduction in excise on petrol.
This prompted calls from some politicians for the actions of fuel firms to be investigated.
However, Mr McPartlan defended the conduct of Fuels for Ireland members.
“We are proud of the efforts of our members in these challenging times – but these times are made even more challenging when misleading comments find their way into the public domain,” he wrote.
Mr McPartlan also claimed that the official messaging from the Government that the excise duty reduction would take effect from midnight on Wednesday had given people a false impression that prices would reduce immediately.
He stated that this was impossible as excise on the supplies in forecourts had already been paid and this had been flagged in advance.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission said last night that it had received 29 contacts from the public about the pricing activities of service stations in the past two days.
“These contacts have been forwarded to our Competition Enforcement and Mergers Division where they will be examined as part of the complaint screening process,” it said.
In the letter, Mr McPartlan also welcomed the excise cuts, but said the net financial impact on consumers and industry of the Ukraine crisis is of greatest concern.
“From the day prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Tuesday of this week, market prices, as reported by Platts, saw an increase of 26 cent per litre on gasoline and 45 cent per litre on Diesel, with the VAT on this adding an additional 6 cent per litre and 10 cent per litre respectively to the benefit of the Government and to the detriment of stressed Consumers,” he said.
“While it is encouraging to see yesterday’s respite on market prices, further price volatility is a certainty.”
Mr McPartlan said there is a need for greater communication with the Government.
He added that as further fiscal interventions seem likely to remain in consideration, it is essential that the sector be consulted during policy development.
“We are keen to play out role, and keen to assist Government,” he said.
“We will continue to transact our business ethically and in an open and transparent fashion.”
“But we will also defend ourselves and our industry and ensure that neither politicians or the public are working with incomplete information, or operating under faulty assumptions as to our industry’s ethics of operation”.
The Taoiseach has said that the Government is seeking flexibility from the EU on VAT on fuels in order to further ease the burden on consumers.