25 October 2016
Despite the drop in the price of imported oil, retail prices of gasoline are rising. Photo: HKEJ
Despite the drop in the price of imported oil, retail prices of gasoline are rising. Photo: HKEJ

Retail fuel prices rise despite drop in imported oil costs

Hong Kong consumers are not benefiting from the decline in imported fuel prices.

According to data submitted to Legislative Council’s panel on economic development, the price of imported unleaded gasoline dropped 31 percent to HK$3.84 (49 US cents) per liter in March from HK$5.59 in January.

However, the price of the product at gas stations went up by 4 percent to HK$13.79 per liter during the period.

Lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who represents the transport industry, said retail fuel prices do not necessarily move in tandem with import prices because of many factors, but he noted that oil companies tend to move faster when raising retail prices than lowering them.

He said pricing by oil companies lacks transparency, but it is hoped that the situation will change when the proposed Competition Ordinance is enacted.

Kelvin Kwok Hiu-fai, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Law and a member of the Consumer Council’s Competition Policy Committee, said oil companies are breaking the law in retail fuel pricing when they engage in price-fixing conspiracy.

However, it is hard to obtain evidence that oil firms are colluding with each other in setting prices, even after the Competition Ordinance takes effect.

But Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, chairman of the Institute of the Motor Industry Hong Kong, said he suspects that oil companies have long been conspiring to set prices because fuel prices in all gas stations operated by different companies have been uniform for many years.

Oil companies such as Chevron, Shell and Esso insist that they have been adjusting retail fuel prices dynamically, but the Environment Bureau said prices should be decided by the market.

The bureau said it will continue monitoring prices trends while urging companies to cut oil prices as soon as possible.

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