Pump hikes: Shell's reason not acceptable, says Case

Three petrol companies have replied to a Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) request to explain their pump price rises this week, after the consumer watchdog accused them on Tuesday of profiteering.

Caltex and Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC) wrote in with "valid explanations", said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon yesterday. Shell's explanation, however, was not acceptable.

"Shell told us that the increase was necessary because of other costs, including crude oil prices, exchange rates, production costs," said Mr Seah. "But they did not say how these costs have gone up and did not give us a breakdown. They gave a vague and general reply that did not address the issue."

Case has asked Shell for a detailed breakdown of its costs, as well as an explanation of how they are being passed to the consumer.

The Government said on Monday that petrol duty would be increased by 20 cents a litre for premium-grade petrol and 15 cents for the intermediate grade.

A day later, all four petrol firms adjusted their prices, some by more than the amount of the duty tariffs, raising concerns among motorists and Case.

SPC, which added an additional cent per litre, said this was to cover the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Case found this valid. "We have checked with the tax department and they said that as long as the excise duty is priced into the product, GST is attracted," said Mr Seah.

Caltex raised prices based on the tariff change, then reduced them by 3 cents the same day. Case has no issue with this, Mr Seah added.

The Straits Times understands that Esso, which made a similar price increase to SPC's, replied to Case last night.

Shell increased prices by up to 25 cents per litre for the premium 98-octane and as much as 18 cents for the regular 95-octane. It then dropped prices by 2 cents a litre on Wednesday for both.

While this means that Shell's price hike for its regular-grade petrol is similar to SPC's, its premium-grade petrol increased 3 cents more than the tariff amount.

As of last night, pump prices across all companies had not changed.

Case has said that if the replies from the firms are not satisfactory, it will file a complaint with the Ministry of Trade and Industry for the companies to be asked to reduce their prices.

limjess@sph.com.sg

adrianl@sph.com.sg