Gasoline prices to be capped?

The government is considering putting a ceiling on fuel prices as profiteering has kept them high in various part of the country despite the drop in international oil prices. «We are examining to what extent this legislative measure would be useful, at least for certain areas,» said General Secretary for Trade Dimitris Skiadas on state television yesterday. Speaking later to Kathimerini, he made it clear that any decision on a price ceiling would apply to areas where retail prices are excessively high. Skiadas said any regulation will depend on the prices recorded next Monday and provided the price levels of unleaded gasoline have not dropped as they should have done. On the basis of August 1 prices, motorists are paying much more than they should for their unleaded gasoline, despite the reduction recorded in the last few days. The areas of Crete, Dodecanese, Cyclades, the Ionian Islands and Thesprotia are among those where prices are particularly high. While the average price of unleaded gasoline across Greece has fallen to 1.21 euros per liter, in Cephalonia it stands at 1.33 euros/l, in the Dodecanese at 1.27 euros/l and in Rethymnon, Crete, at 1.30 euros/l. The real question is how effective such a price ceiling measure will be after mid-August when most Greeks will be preparing to return to the major cities after their summer vacations. The Development Ministry acknowledges that the measure could create distortions in the market by driving those who sell at lower rates closer to the levels announced as the ceiling. «In areas where there are one or two gasoline stations selling at the same price, you can impose a ceiling, but where there is a bigger price choice the measure can distort the market,» notes Skiadas. A law dating from 2002 provides for the imposition of a ceiling on fuel prices. The relevant decision is made by the development minister after an opinion issued by the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE). The measure’s initial duration can be as long as two months.