Watchdog calls for suspension of fuel tax as petrol prices soar
Published 17/05/2010 | 05:00
A CONSUMER watchdog has called on the government to suspend a fuel tax as petrol prices soar to their highest level ever.
Prices are now averaging almost €1.35 per litre at service stations around the country, according to independent price watchdog pumps.ie and a survey carried out by the Irish Independent this week.
The Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) called on the Government to help drivers by suspending the carbon tax while prices were so high -- with the latest official figures showing the cost of filling up with petrol or diesel has soared by 24pc in the last year, adding over €500 to annual fuel bills.
They warned that with the euro exchange rate at a 18-month low, prices at the pumps could continue to soar, and have urged the Government to suspend the carbon tax as long as petrol remained above €1.20 per litre.
"Motorists are losing out every way at a time when they can't afford it. Our petrol prices are high, our road tax is the highest in Europe and our potholes are the worst. How can the Government justify taking 70pc of the price of every litre?" said Michael Kilcoyne of the CAI.
Prices are now the highest in the five years that pumps.ie has been tracking prices, with petrol now costing more than it did when world oil prices reached their highest ever level in 2008, said the website's owner, Jonathan Dean.
But with oil prices having fallen back in recent days to under $78 a barrel -- compared with $87 a week ago and around $148 two years ago -- consumers could see prices at the pumps come back down again by the end of this month.
"We are predicting that prices will stay at this peak for a few weeks, but then they start to come back down by the end of May, or the first week in June," he said.
The reason Irish petrol prices are at their highest level ever -- even though world oil prices are starting to fall again and are nowhere near their 2008 peak -- is due to a combination of the weakness of the euro against the dollar and extra government taxes.
AA spokesman Conor Faughnan said many garages are now charging more than the €1.33 peak seen in July 2008, and the only certainty for motorists was that prices would remain volatile over coming months given the dramatic swings in the price of oil and and value of the euro.
"In the last two years we've seen oil at $148 (€119) a barrel and at $33 (€26) a barrel. Nobody can predict the future with any accuracy," he said.
Our survey showed that the average price charged on Friday was €1.346, with one garage lowering prices and one raising them over the week and the remainder unchanged.
Mr Dean said that drops in oil prices should translate into lower prices at the pumps within a few weeks --with prices coming down fastest at the busiest outlets as they adjust their prices most frequently because they bring in petrol more often.
"As a general rule, the busier stations on major routes change their prices quicker, which is bad news if they're going up, but good news if they're coming down while the more remote stations are slower to respond," he said.