SHANNON Town Council are to ask the Competition Authority to investigate if local petrol and diesel retailers are operating anti-competitive practices.
However, Darragh O’Connor, who operates the Texaco station, has staunchly denied that he is involved in anything of the kind and has said he will put up a poster at his pumps explaining where the money is going.
At the meeting, Councillor Cathy McCafferty put forward a motion asking that the authority be asked to investigate.
She said that falls in the price of oil haven’t been passed onto customers. “On Monday, the price of a barrel was $73, that is down from 147 in 2008 but retail prices are the same as they were then.”
She said that prices can only partly be explained by the weak dollar and high levels of tax on fuel.
The Sinn Féin representative said that prices in Shannon were always the same and were high. “The prices are always the exact same and they are always on the higher end of the scale relative to other towns.”
She said that in Ennis she had been to an outlet that was five-cent a litre cheaper than what is available in Shannon. “There appears to be an absence of competition in Shannon,” she claimed.
Councillor Patricia McCarthy said that she had spoken to retailers about it, while Councillor Gerry Flynn said that prices in Ennis were much more competitive than Shannon. “Last week at Topaz in Ennis it was 1.22 for diesel and 1.32 for petrol. I came to Shannon and the prices were 126.9 and 135.9.”
Labour party Councillor Tony McMahon said that prices generally seem to be higher in Shannon. “I don’t want to make accusations because I don’t have evidence but in Shannon and its surrounds the price always seems to be at the upper end of the scale.”
Speaking to The Clare Champion after the meeting, Mr O’Connor firmly denied that he was involved in any type of price fixing and that he actually didn’t know who was operating the local Topaz store.
“I’d deny that 100%. I’m making four cent per litre.
“I have to buy from Texaco and the price they charge me changes every Wednesday and Friday. I employ 20 local people and I can’t do that unless I’m making something out of it.”
He said that he has sponsored local teams and community groups and that there was very little room for manoeuvre on the price of fuel, while he was critical of the council.
“I’m given a bill of €21,500 for rates so that they can go swanning off to America for St Patrick’s Day and other places.”
A spokesman from Topaz’s head office said, “Topaz fully stands over its pricing structure. The National Consumer Agency carried out a detailed report on the retail fuels pricing market in Ireland 18 months ago and this independent report found that the market in Ireland is transparent and competitive.’