Anger as Esso hikes petrol prices

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The Independent Online

Oil companies were back under fire today after it emerged that Esso had hiked its prices at the height of the fuel crisis.

Oil companies were back under fire today after it emerged that Esso had hiked its prices at the height of the fuel crisis.

The AA slammed the company's decision to increase unleaded petrol by 2p per litre and diesel by 4p per litre and said motorists would be "unimpressed".

And protesters who had earlier lifted their blockade at Coryton, Essex, were re-thinking whether to put the blockade back on.

Esso, which supplies 1,600 service stations nationwide, said in a statement: "We recognise that this may seem untimely in the light of the current disruption to fuel supplies, but we cannot ignore the impact of the increase in crude and finished product prices, which have squeezed already unsustainable margins even further."

The move was attacked as "insensitive" by the RAC Foundation that said motorists would not be happy with the announcement.

Director Edmund King said: "This timing is totally insensitive. Ourselves and others have been trying to bring this dispute to an end and the fact that on the very day that we have manage to persuade protesters to give up their protests and start dialogue, Esso seem to be igniting the fires again with another increase.

"Some of these companies have sold 50% more fuel that normal in the last few days, even though some have run dry, so it is not as if they are under immense pressure.

"You would have thought that a company of that size could have held these increases and paid for them out of their profits.

"The motoring public will not be happy about this because generally there was support for the fact that fuel prices were too high. So the fact that when the blockades are beginning to lift and Esso announce they are hitting people's wallets again, it really is a backward step."

But Esso said that despite the timing, it felt it was important to continue with their normal price strategy.

"We believe that regardless of the current fuel supply situation, it is important to continue our normal pricing strategy so that we can continue to recommend competitive prices to sites that are operational.

"The European independent group Oil Price Assessment Ltd (OPAL) quotes the UK average price of unleaded fuel on September 8 as 80.4p per litre. Excluding duty 48.8p per litre, VAT 12p per litre and the cost of the finished product around 17.5p per litre ... this left a margin of just 2p per litre for the retailer and the oil company.

"The need for the price increase should be evident, given that it is widely accepted that the petrol business requires a minimum of 4-5p per litre margin in order to remain economically viable," the statement said.

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