The B.C. government has introduced legislation to force oil and gas companies to reveal to consumers how gas prices are set.
The Fuel Price Transparency Act, if passed, will allow the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to collect information from oil and gas companies on the market conditions involved in setting gasoline prices. The information will be made available to the public.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to watch the price of gas shoot up for no reason, and British Columbians are tired of feeling ripped off whenever they fill up their vehicles,” Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston said.
“This legislation sends a message to oil and gas companies: the days of setting your prices in total secrecy have come to an end.”
The BCUC investigated the province’s high gas prices and found southern British Columbians were paying an estimated $490 million per year in extra fuel costs due to an unexplained 13 cent differential between costs to oil and gas companies and the price at the pumps.
The province says the legislation was produced in response to the investigation that found a lack of competition and substantial markups, in the province’s gasoline market.
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Fuel companies submitted that problems with the BCUC’s methodology, transportation costs and boutique B.C. and Canadian fuel standards were among the factors behind the differential. The BCUC did not agree with the response from the oil and gas companies.
The legislation requires companies to share data on refined fuel imports and exports, fuel volumes at refineries and terminals, as well as wholesale and retail prices.
The province has also included “safeguards” to ensure that the information provided by the companies is complete, accurate and reported regularly.
“By pulling back the curtain, these companies will be publicly accountable for unfair markups and cost increases that cannot be explained,” Ralston said.
“It will also produce a common set of facts moving forward, allowing us to properly evaluate other policy measures to bring fairness to the price at the pump.”
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Companies will have to report their data and could face fines or administrative penalties if they fail to do so.
The legislation also sets rules for audits and inspections to ensure that the data being reported is complete and accurate.
–with files from Simon Little