By Angelos Anastasiou
TWO new measures to facilitate transparency in fuel prices were presented by the Energy ministry yesterday in a meeting with officials from parliamentary party and consumer associations.
The measures are an improvement on the weekly review of fuel prices at petrol stations, monitored and updated by the ministry, and comprise a sorting tool on the ministry’s website (http://www.mcit.gov.cy) which ranks 295 gas stations across Cyprus from cheapest to most expensive, as well as an application for mobile phones and tablets.
The website is updated in real time, whereas the mobile app is updated hourly.
Energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said the platforms will help consumers pick the cheapest station available to them, thus boosting competition in the field of fuel prices – which have been liberalised since 2004.
“As soon as the price at the pump changes, the price changes on our website,” Lakkotrypis said.
Upon entering the Greek version of the ministry’s website, users can click on ‘Retail Fuel Price Index’. From there, they can click on the last date the index has been updated (update points highlighted in yellow on the calendar), and select the district they want to peruse, as well as the type of fuel they wish to buy. The tool will then bring up a list of stations and the price corresponding to the fuel they chose, which they can rank according to price. The tool will also give users the option of locating specific petrol stations on a map.
The app, named ‘Map Cyprus’, allows users to identify the ten cheapest stations in their area. Through GPS, the application scans the area for the cheapest fuel the user has specified, and depicts the ten cheapest locations on a map. The application also states when the station owner last updated the fuel prices listed.
Following the presentation, party reps and consumers’ associations discussed the issue of fuel prices with Lakkotrypis, in light of the recent drop in oil prices internationally.
The Cyprus Consumers’ Association issued a statement after the meeting, in which it welcomed the ministry’s initiative.
“Today in Nicosia there are five stations selling unleaded 95-octane petrol at €1.195 per litre, while the most common price is €0.034 higher, i.e. at €1.229 per litre, found in 25 stations across Nicosia,” it announced.
“We urge consumers to utilise the tool for their own interest, and let us have their feedback.”
The consumers’ association also discussed further measures that could be taken in order to boost competition, including the licensing of independent petrol stations that “will facilitate the introduction of more oil companies”.
“We also expect the Competition Commission to conclude, at last, its sector probe into the issue, and announce its results,” the association said.
The commission had fined oil companies in 2009 over €40m for price-fixing, but the ruling fell through after the appointments of its members had been deemed irregular in court. The issue was picked up again earlier this year.
“Lastly, we feel the time has come to re-examine the issue of taxes levied on fuel,” the consumers’ association said.
Meanwhile, a separate consumers’ association, the Pancyprian Union of Consumers and Quality of Life, warned Lakkotrypis that unless the government gets serious about reducing fuel prices, they will react “strongly and creatively”.
“Unless we see in practice decisive steps towards reducing fuel prices, we will study and decide, escalating significant and creative measures, including resorting to the European Union’s competition bodies, suing the Republic of Cyprus for its long-standing policy of unacceptable indifference to the existence of a fuel cartel,” the union said.