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Consumers much happier with petrol station competition as prices fall

14 Apr 15

Petrol stations have taken a big jump up in consumers' esteem in the past year, with 68 percent of those polled in a survey undertaken in January saying they believe petrol station prices are competitive, up from 56 percent last year and 41 percent in August 2011, "on the back of lower petrol prices in recent months," according to pollster UMR.

The improving score for petrol stations is revealed in a poll commissioned annually for the past four years by the Electricity Authority, which seeks to measure competitiveness both within the electricity industry and also when compared to other sectors with similar characteristics.

The result still sees petrol retailers in fifth place among the six industry categories surveyed, with supermarkets ranking first with 77 percent of those polled believing they offered competitive pricing, followed by telephone companies, at 74 percent, electrical goods stores at 73 percent, and banks at 72 percent, followed by electricity retailers at 69 percent, just one percentage point ahead of petrol stations and three points down on the 2014 poll. Online bookstores maintained its last place in the seven categories measured, with 34 percent of those polled deeming them competitive, unchanged from the 2014 poll.

Only petrol stations showed an improvement in their competitiveness rankings. Supermarkets dropped 8 points from 85 percent in the previous year's poll, while ranking of competitiveness for telcos fell from 82 percent to 74 percent between 2014 and 2015. Banks and electricity goods stores showed smaller falls in perceived competitiveness among consumers.

However, perceptions of electricity industry competitiveness showed marked improvement in a poll among industry stakeholders, including generators and retailers as well as consumers. There was a substantial jump in agreement that current regulatory arrangements for the sector were effective, up 14 percentage points to 58 percent. That was the first time in the four years of polling that a majority of industry stakeholders have approved current regulatory arrangements, which became a 2014 election issue when the Labour and Green parties issued policies to dismantle them in favour of a centrally controlled model.

Labour's new energy spokesman, Stuart Nash, suggested earlier this month that policy may not survive the review of policies occurring under the party's new leader, Andrew Little. Some 60 percent of stakeholders rated retail market arrangements good or better, up from 45 percent in the 2014 poll.

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