Government tackles holiday petrol price hikes

Government tackles holiday petrol price hikes
Photo: DPA
Higher petrol prices just as school holidays start could be a thing of the past, with the German government taking steps to stop fuel firms taking advantage of people’s travel plans.

With Easter school holidays starting in much of the country this weekend, motorways were expected to be full across the country.

Adding insult to traffic jam misery, petrol prices have also reached record highs with a litre of Super E10 costing an average of €1.70 in Germany on Thursday.

Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, is discussing new law on Friday which would break the control of major oil companies on petrol prices.

If agreement is found, a proposal will be put to the lower house, the Bundestag after the summer break.

The new proposal requires oil giants to warn of price changes by 2pm of the day before the change, and the new price must remain constant for at least 24 hours.

Prices would be stored in a central public database. In theory, motorists would be able to check the pump prices at stations in their area on their mobile phones.

The idea is specifically to break the hegemony of multinationals Aral and Shell. As Germany’s market leaders, these companies dictate price changes at the pumps. When they raise prices, smaller suppliers generally follow suit within about five hours.

Erik Schweickert, spokesman for the government’s junior coalition partner the Free Democratic Party, told Bild newspaper, “Our aim is to take measures against the racket on the roads as soon as possible. The price of petrol should be directed by supply and demand again – not public holidays.”

“Millions of motorists should no longer be oppressed by the oil multinationals,” said Johannes Singhammer, of the Christian Social Union, sister party to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

The government’s proposal is well-timed to coincide with the highest petrol prices ever seen in Germany – on Thursday a litre of Super E10 cost an average of €1.70 in Germany.

FDP leader and Economy Minister Philipp Rösler also intends to expand the powers of Germany’s cartel authorities to prevent prices being dictated by one or two companies in any given sector.

“We need more clarity and control,” he told Bild. “That’s why I want to give the Federal Cartel Office the tools to uncover possible abuses and to investigate them.”

Coinciding conveniently with the recent petrol price hike, the motorist association ADAC warned this week that traffic jams were expected on several German motorways as Easter school holidays in many parts of the country begin this weekend.

On top of increased domestic traffic, thousands of people are expected to travel through or into Germany from neighbouring countries in what the Auto Club Europa (ACE) described as “the first big travel wave of the year.”

The Local/bk

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