Oil and gas companies in British Columbia will be forced to reveal to consumers how gas prices are set, as the result of new legislation that was introduced on Monday.
Dubbed the Fuel Price Transparency Act, the legislation “will allow the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) to collect information from oil and gas companies on the market conditions involved in setting gasoline prices,” the BC government said in a release.
Specifically, it will require companies to share data on refined fuel imports and exports, fuel volumes at refineries and terminals, as well as wholesale and retail prices. It also has safeguards in place to ensure that the information provided by the companies is complete, accurate, and reported regularly.
The information will be made available to the public, as well as consumer and watchdog groups.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to watch the price of gas shoot up for no reason, and British Columbians are tired of feeling ripped off whenever they fill up their vehicles,” said BC Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston.
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The new legislation, he said, “sends a message to oil and gas companies: the days of setting your prices in total secrecy have come to an end. By pulling back the curtain, these companies will be publicly accountable for unfair markups and cost increases that cannot be explained.
“The act will also produce a common set of facts moving forward, allowing us to properly evaluate other policy measures to bring fairness to the price at the pump,” said Ralston.
The government said the act was developed and created in response to the recent BCUC investigation that found a lack of competition and substantial markups in the province’s gasoline market — including a 10- to 13-cent-per-litre premium being charged to drivers that industry was unable to explain during the BCUC inquiry.
This “unexplained premium” results in British Columbians paying an extra $490 million every year, the report found.
BC Premier John Horgan ordered the inquiry in May of this year to investigate the reasons behind “high, volatile gasoline prices” in the province.
During that time, prices at the pump reached nearly $1.70 per litre.
Horgan said the increase in gas prices in BC was “alarming” and “increasingly out of line with the rest of Canada.”