B.C.’s fuel suppliers to publish prices to provide accountability: minister

Bruce Ralston says move will ensure industry publicly accountable for unexplained prices increases

Mandatory reporting requirements are being imposed on wholesale gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers in British Columbia to ensure transparency and accountability on pricing.

Bruce Ralston, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, says companies that import, purchase, store and distribute gasoline and diesel to be sold at retail stations must regularly report to the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Each report must include details covering fuel imports, storage capacity, bulk sales and wholesale prices.

Ralston says the reports amount to “pulling back the curtain,” and will ensure the industry is held publicly accountable for unexplained markups and prices increases.

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The reporting requirements follow an investigation into fuel prices in B.C., that Ralston says determined the gasoline market is “not truly competitive,” and was responsible for an unexplained 13-cent per litre premium.

B.C. passed the Fuel Price Transparency Act last year and in March the utilities commission was declared the independent administrator of the act, with authority to collect and publish data on fuel pricing in order to promote competition in the market.

“When a company feels that people are looking over your shoulder, they are much more likely to be cautious in advancing unexplained spurts in prices that they were not obliged to explain in the past,” Ralston said during a news conference on Friday.

Submission of the reports will start in October and the data is expected to be available to the public in November.

The utilities commission has also launched a website at gaspricesbc.ca to provide the public with information about factors that influence fuel prices.

This is a process that has been used in Australia, New Zealand, and Washington and Oregon states, said Ralston.

The requested details are already collected by wholesale fuel suppliers so it will not be onerous for them to collect and provide to the B.C. Utilities Commission, Ralston said.

“The step to regulate prices directly is a big step,” he said, noting the New Democrat government is not considering fines or other measures to force lower gas prices.

“What I would like to do is to see how the requirement to publish the wholesale prices works out and what effect it may have on prices and then we will consider whether there are further steps necessary.”

—The Canadian Press

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