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Increased scrutiny of oil companies expected to reduce fuel prices in B.C.: minister

FILE - Gas prices are displayed as a motorist prepares to pump gas at a station in North Vancouver on May 10, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Summary

New rules will ensure wholesale prices are shared with the B.C. Utilities Commission

The province brought in new mandatory reporting requirements for the wholesale market using the Fuel Price Transparency

Oil companies will need to make regular reports to the utilities commission

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Increased scrutiny of the oil industry is expected to make gas prices in B.C. more transparent and cheaper, according to the provincial government.

Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Bruce Ralston said Friday the new rules will ensure wholesale prices are shared with the B.C. Utilities Commission.

“What we expect is that scrutiny — that is public access to the way in which prices are set, the data being used by the companies — will moderate and have an effect on prices. That’s what we expect,” Ralston said.

The province brought in new mandatory reporting requirements for the wholesale market using the Fuel Price Transparency Act in November after research by regulators found a lack of competition and significant markups in the B.C. market, including a 13-cent-per-litre premium being charged to drivers that industry was unable to explain.

Ralston said that resulted in B.C. drivers paying an extra $490 million per year.

“For years, British Columbians have felt like they are getting gouged when they fill up at the pump. That’s why our government asked our independent energy watchdog to do an investigation into gas prices,” he added.

The new regulations target the wholesale market.

Companies that import, purchase, store and distribute gasoline and diesel products intended for sale at retail stations will need to make regular reports to the utilities commission starting in October. The reports are to include detailed information on fuel imports, storage capacity, bulk sales, and wholesale prices.

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“We know that from the BCUC’s investigation into gas prices that four companies control around 90 per cent of the wholesale market in southern B.C.,” Ralston said. “By pulling back the curtain, the action we are taking today will help ensure industry is held publicly accountable for unexplained markups and prices increases.”

In March, the utilities commission was named as the independent administrator of the transparency act and given the power to collect and publish data on fuel pricing in order to promote competition in the market.

The utilities commission launched a website earlier this year to provide the public with information about the factors that influence fuel gas prices.