Gasoline pumps lock up on Crete

As gasoline station owners on the island of Crete switch off pumps in protest against the government’s recently introduced price ceiling, the Development Ministry said yesterday it is determined to press ahead with measures aimed at protecting consumers. The Development and Finance Ministries last week announced the setting of a maximum selling price for fuel on 11 islands until the end of the month in order to stamp out profiteering in the sector. Despite the recent drop in international oil prices, fuel retailers, particularly in rural parts of the country, have been accused of being slow to pass on savings to motorists. Development Minister Christos Folias said yesterday a free market should operate in favor of the consumer. «The political will exists to achieve this by using all institutional means,» he commented after a cabinet meeting. «We are determined to put an end to situations and practices that do not do honor to the Greek market. No one is above the law.» Authorities set maximum fuel prices on islands including Corfu, Cephalonia, Lesvos, Lefkada and Chios by calculating the average sale price of petrol in the greater Athens area and adding transportation expenses. Gasoline retailers argue that a price ceiling needs to be implemented at all stages of the supply chain in order to be effective, including refineries. With the current prices set by the state, gas stations say they are being forced to operate with a one percent profit margin, which makes trading unprofitable. Gas station owners in Chania and Rethymnon on Crete closed yesterday, while their colleagues on the rest of the island are expected to follow suit today. The threat of islands being left without fuel comes at one of the busiest times of the year for Greece’s popular holiday destinations. It was not clear whether gasoline station owners in the other areas affected by the measure will also shut down. Opposition parties say the price ceiling measure is ineffective, as it should have been introduced at the beginning of the summer.