British Columbia’s provincial government has passed legislation to force oil companies to reveal how they set gas prices.
Lawmakers passed the Fuel Price Transparency Act on Wednesday.
The legislation comes in the wake of an investigation by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) that found an unexplained 10 to 13 cent premium on Lower Mainland fuel prices over Pacific Northwest wholesale prices.
The regulator says the differential is costing British Columbians an estimated half-billion dollars a year, and prompted the BCUC to question whether B.C. is a “functioning competitive market.”
“People are finding it incredibly frustrating to watch the prices of gasoline shoot up for no reason, and they are tired of feeling ripped off whenever they fill up their vehicles,” Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston said in a statement.
“The Fuel Price Transparency Act will allow the British Columbia Utilities Commission to collect information from oil and gas companies on the market conditions involved in setting prices.”
The province says the new law will produce a “common set of facts” about fuel prices, and require companies to share data on refined fuel imports, wholesale and retail prices, and volumes at refineries and terminals.
Fuel companies have disputed the BCUC’s findings, arguing that the regulator’s methodology was flawed and that B.C. and Canada’s low carbon fuel standards and transportation costs account for the differential.
Companies have also resisted providing accounting data on their supply chain and pricing, arguing that it is competitively sensitive and confidential.
Under the act, 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 Richard Zussman