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Motorists await diesel competition benefits

‘It makes no difference who supplies fuel’

Not all fuel pumps stock diesel supplied by Enemalta and, yet, motorists have no way of telling the difference, The Times has learnt.

At least a quarter of petrol stations sell diesel imported by a private fuel supplier but, despite a liberalised fuel market, the price everywhere is the same as that set by Enemalta. This means motorists are unaware who their fuel supplier is and, worse still, do not benefit from the competition.

When asked about price uniformity, the Malta Resources Authority, which regulates the fuel sector, referred this newspaper to the consumers’ authority.

When asked whether it would investigate the matter, the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority said fuel prices were fixed by the resources regulator not by the providers.

Engineer Francis Farrugia, chairman of the consumer affairs authority, insisted that nobody was keeping the station owners from selling at a lower price than that fixed by the regulator. Mr Farrugia acknowledged that motorists should know who their fuel supplier is “if they want to know” but this was up to the MRA because energy legislation fell under its remit.

Engineer Anthony Rizzo, the chief executive at MRA, said the regulator was discussing with petrol station owners the introduction of “visual markers” at the pump indicating the supplier of the particular fuel.

He confirmed that Enemalta had a dominant market status but would not divulge in percentage terms the amount of fuel supplied by the different importers.

“The information requested is of commercial nature and cannot be divulged,” Mr Rizzo said, insisting the regulator performed regular checks at petrol stations to ensure fuel quality was good.

He said that as long as the quality standard was met it did not make any difference who supplied the fuel.

Petrol station owner Carlo Cini, who represents pump owners, said that the difference in price between the diesel supplied by Enemalta and the private company only amounted to “a few mills”. He acknowledged that the fuel was not branded differently but insisted that it made little sense to do so given that the private company imported the diesel jointly with Enemalta.

“Around a quarter of petrol pumps sell diesel supplied by the private company but they also sell diesel from Enemalta depending on availability,” Mr Cini explained.

The fuel market was liberalised in 2007. Petrol is still exclusively supplied by Enemalta and, in the diesel market, the consumer is getting a single price with no knowledge of who the supplier is.

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