Austrian oil firms ‘ignore global market rates’

Austrian petrol firms pointing the finger at international trade developments are red-faced over revelations that they were behind soaring prices.The Federal Austrian Competition Authority (BWB) announced today (Fri) that domestic oil companies did not consider global price levels when it came to establishing the prices of diesel and regular fuel at petrol stations.BWB boss Theodor Thanner stressed: “These claims aren’t true. We have got evidence that Austrian (car fuel) price developments have developed more and more independently from what happened on the Rotterdam products exchange.”Thanner said Austrian mineral oil companies cited “supply and demand” as argumentations for how their set their prices. He said: “With this claim, they openly admitted deliberate higher rates in areas lacking competition like on the countryside and on motorways.”The market expert stressed this explained why car petrol prices usually soared shortly before holidays and on weekends.Thanner promised he and his team would continue to closely observe the Austrian oil firms’ actions.These revelations come after Traffic Club Austria (VCÖ) called on the government coalition to raise mineral oil taxes next year. The non-governmental pressure group claimed that, with 34.7 Eurocents per litre, especially the taxation rate on diesel fuel was too low.One litre of regular car petrol is currently burdened with 44.2 Eurocents in taxes.VCÖ claimed that this “taxation privilege” diesel fuel consumers were enjoying was “not justified” considering the fragile state the Austrian economy has been in since the economic downturn kicked in around two years ago.International research has shown that car fuel was still significantly lower than in most other European countries.Tens of thousands of Italians, Czechs, Germans and Swiss are coming to Austria every year only to fuel their cars at petrol stations just across the border to benefit from the cheaper rates.This fact tempted car clubs ÖAMTC and Arbö to warn the coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and People’s Party (ÖVP) not to up taxes on mineral oil as such a move could end the “fuel tourism”.The motorists’ associations said higher taxes on car petrol would subsequently lead to less rather than more revenues.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann recently ruled out higher mineral oil taxes over fears that commuters forced to use their cars due to a lack of public transport connections would bear the brunt.ÖVP chief Minister Josef Pröll however called for an “eco tax focus” which, according to reports, could include higher petrol tax rates enabling the coalition to invest more in environmentally friendly energy technologies.Austria is under pressure to restore its national budget over the next few years after supporting the country’s biggest banks as well as hundreds of firms with billions of Euros throughout the crisis to avoid massive job culls.