Britain’s competition watchdog has launched an in-depth investigation to examine fuel price concerns.

The Competition and Markets Authority will look at the difference between petrol and diesel prices in rural and urban areas, as well as the growing gap between the price of crude when it enters refineries and the wholesale price when it leaves.

In an urgent review published on Friday, the CMA found that while there were concerns that some retailers could profit from the current situation, it did not contribute much to the spike in pump prices.

About 40% of the current increase in fuel prices is due to an increase in the amount that refineries charge retailers for wholesale diesel and gas.

The difference between the price of crude oil and wholesale prices has tripled in the past year from almost 10p to almost 35p, the CMA said.

Over the same period, the difference between wholesale prices and what consumers pay has fluctuated, but has remained on average at 10p per litre.

Sarah Cardell, CMA general counsel, said: “While global pressures pushing up fuel prices are unavoidable, the widening gap between the price of oil and the wholesale price of petrol and diesel is a cause for concern.

“We now need to look at whether there is a legitimate reason for this and, if not, what steps can be taken to address the issue.

“Overall, the retail market looks competitive, but there are some areas that need further study.

“This includes finding out whether disparities in prices between the city and the countryside are justified.”

She said the CMA would use its formal legal powers to investigate further, adding: “If there is evidence of collusion or similar wrongdoing, we will not hesitate to take action.”

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