Friday, September 12, 2008

Wild fluctuations in the price of gasoline

In Le prix de l’essence laisse songeur, an article published Thursday September 11 in La Presse, journalist Hélène Baril states: «During the last week, the price of a litre of regular gasoline has fallen by almost 4 cents in Toronto and only 0.6 cent in Montreal. » The article goes on reporting justifications from various industry representatives, which you can read by clicking on the above hyperlink.

Nonetheless, I believe that the consumer is tired of these explanations, particularly in the wake of the scandal which has hit the oil industry last summer, as reported in a column entitled Quebec gas companies charged with price fixing published by CTV Thursday June 12: « Gasoline retailers in four Quebec regions have been accused of price fixing, the federal Competition Bureau announced Thursday. The alleged scheme involved 13 people and 11 companies in the Quebec regions of Sherbrooke, Magog, Victoriaville and Thetford Mines, Commissioner of Competition Sheridan Scott told reporters at a Montreal news conference. » Other media have reported that the scheme could also involve other regions: Les prix étaient discutés pour d’autres marchés.

It is pointless to endlessly rehash our constant frustration vis-à-vis those facts; appointed authorities have done a good job, let justice take its course, hoping that the Court judgement will deter such dishonest and illegal practices.

To give consumers a tool, some small form of protection, against the perpetual yo-yo that has become the price of gasoline at the pump, I will instead reveal the existence of a resource and make two suggestions.

I have recently discovered a Web site, Essence Montréal , « a real-time forum where consumers can post current gasoline prices in the city of Montreal and its suburbs. »

This site needs our collaboration to convey accurate and reliable information to people. I invite you to take a few minutes of your time every day to report the price of gasoline at the pump in one or two service stations in your neighbourhood.

On the home page, you can also subscribe to a newsletter by entering your email address: « The Essence Montreal newsletter will consist of e-mail alerts which will be sent out to our subscribers whenever there is a suspected large increase in gas prices in the city of Montreal and its suburbs. » Thus, you will at least be able to fill up before being surprised by a swift and unexpected price increase.

Consumers often underestimate their collective power. Yet, if my suggestions bear fruit, in the long run, surges in gasoline prices could translate into an equally sudden desertion of service stations, until the price decreases. I won’t pretend that our efforts would lower the price of gas, but they could at least put an end to wild fluctuations.


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