Published Tuesday, 09 October 2012
NI motorists face some of the highest fuel prices in the UK. (© Getty)
A survey by the Consumer Council revealed that motorists are feeling the pinch as the region has the some of the highest motor fuel prices in the UK.
According to the consumer body, respondents are potentially spending 14% or more of their average weekly wage on fuel costs.
On Tuesday an assembly committee met with the Office of Fair Trading to review the NI motor fuel industry, following its call for information on the UK petrol and diesel sector.
The competition watchdog said in light on continuing public concern about pump prices, it wants to identify whether or not there are competition problems that it can tackle in the sector.
The Consumer Council met with the OFT to highlight consumers' concerns from their survey- 82% of those who responded said they have changed their driving behaviour in response to the rising costs of fuel.
Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive said: "Encouragingly a similar percentage of respondents have indicated that they are now shopping around for the best deal."
This is a good practice for drivers as supermarkets often vary their fuel prices by as much as six pence per litre even though they have the same supplier.
"As a result of our survey we will asking OFT to provide clear information for consumers about the factors influencing changes in fuel prices as 78% of all respondents have limited or no understanding of why fuel prices increase or decrease," Ms McKeown added.
"In addition we will also be asking the OFT to examine why fuel prices are so high in Northern Ireland compared to other parts of the UK."
She said in particular that consumers living in rural areas are being hit hard, with 25% of survey respondents spending more than £70 per week on fuel.
"This equates to 19% or more of the average weekly wage in Northern Ireland. Many of these motorists have no alternative to private cars with 66% of the respondents to our Fuel Survey telling us that they drive over 10,000 miles a year," she added.
Ulster Unionist economy spokesperson stressed to the OFT the fact that Northern Ireland has some of the highest petrol prices in Europe.
"This comes as a significant disadvantage for businesses and individuals alike," she said.
"The anomaly of much cheaper fuel being available across the border is also something which needs to be considered in light of the disadvantage which this highlights for NI consumers. It is important that the OFT takes these issues into account."