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19/10/2011 Heating oil market is strongly competitive, says OFT

The trading watchdog was asked to investigate the market following spikes in the price of heating oil last winter, as the cold weather caused shortages for off-grid energy customers.

The OFT found that "no evidence of a competition problem [or] collusion between suppliers" and it identified a "variety of evidence that rival suppliers compete on price".

However, it did find "grounds for concern about compliance with consumer law". Last month, the watchdog cracked down on some heating oil websites for implying they were independent or were comparing prices from different suppliers, when this was not the case.

It is now continuing to investigate complaints that some heating oil suppliers were charging a different price on delivery from that quoted when the order was taken, particularly during the severe weather last December.

GB Oils, owned by Ireland's DCC Group, which is the largest heating oil supplier to residential customers, welcomed the OFT's finding that the market is competitive. It added that it is "fully committed to complying with all relevant consumer protection laws and has been actively enhancing its pricing practices and brand transparency to ensure the highest standards of customer service are being provided".

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