British Columbia

B.C. introduces mandatory price reporting for wholesale gas market

The province will soon require gas companies to share their wholesale prices in an effort to create more transparency surrounding fuel prices. 

Move is intended to ensure industry is held accountable for unexplained markups and price increases

A months-long inquiry from the BCUC into gas prices last year found a lack of competition in B.C.'s fuel market. (Gene J. Puskar/The Associated Press)

The province will soon require gas companies to share their wholesale prices in an effort to create more transparency surrounding fuel prices. 

Any company that imports, purchases, stores or distributes gas and diesel at gas stations will need to regularly report information like storage capacity and wholesale prices to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC).

The new regulation is part of the Fuel Price Transparency Act passed last year and goes into effect Aug. 14, but the reports have to be made regularly starting in October.

The move is intended to ensure the industry is held accountable for unexplained markups and price increases, said Bruce Ralston, the minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources. 

"What we expect is that scrutiny, that is the public access to the way in which prices are set, the data that is being used by the companies, will moderate and have an effect on prices," Ralston said Friday.

"I certainly think when a company feels people are looking over your shoulder, they're much more likely to be cautious in advancing unexplained spurts in prices that they were not obliged to explain in the past."

This is a process that has been used in New Zealand, Australia, and in Washington and Oregon, Ralston said.

The utilities commission has also started a website to provide the public with information about factors that influence the price of fuel.

Four companies control about 90 per cent of the wholesale market in southern B.C., he added. 

A months-long inquiry from the BCUC into gas prices last year found a lack of competition in B.C.'s fuel market, and that there was an unexplained difference of about 13 cent per litre in gas prices in southern B.C. compared to other parts of the Pacific northwest.

According to the province, this results in drivers paying an extra $490 million each year. 

Ralston said he is not looking at imposing penalties and fines to lower gas prices, but the province says it is developing more regulations for other parts of the fuel supply chain, including the retail market. 

"The step to regulate prices directly is a big step," Ralston said.

"We have not taken that step at this time. What I'd like to do is to see how the requirement to publish the wholesale prices works out and what effect it may have on prices."

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