COMPETITION watchdogs should investigate high rural fuel prices, the government has been told.
Tory MP Sarah Newton believes the Office of Fair Trading should look into the reasons why petrol costs up to 5p/litre more in rural areas.
She has launched an online petition calling on the government to ensure that the regional fuel market is fair to rural consumers.
"The price of petrol in rural parts of the UK can now be up to five pence more expensive per litre than petrol sold in urban areas," it says.
"Such high prices are having a considerable impact on the finances of rural households, who are often dependent upon cars to access work, school and public services."
The online petition can be viewed here. If it attracts more than 100,000 signatures, it will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.
Writing on her blog, Ms Newton said her campaign to tackle unfair fuel prices at the pumps was gathering momentum.
"I feel that there is an urgent need for such an investigation to take place.
"The price of petrol in rural parts of the UK can now be up to five pence more expensive per litre than petrol sold in urban areas."
She added: "Local businesses, often with long supply chains which are road-based, are being hit as well."
Ms Newton said she would be working with the Countryside Alliance to persuade ministers that high fuel prices paid by rural motorists needed to be investigated.
Her petition coincides with the publication of a government report on rural fuel costs.
The government said it recognised that the cost of both road fuel and domestic heating energy was a significant issue in rural communities.
The position was complex and varies across the country, but fuel and energy prices in many rural areas were higher than the national average.
Choices that urban residents took for granted, for example between competing petrol suppliers, were often not available to rural consumers.
The report can be downloaded here.
It summarises work to ensure rural needs are considered as relevant policies and programmes were developed and implemented.
Published by Defra, it highlights action taken across a range of policies and initiatives to mitigate the negative impact of fuel and energy prices in rural areas.
In addition to summarising progress over the past year, the paper outlines further initiatives the government believes will deliver rural benefits.
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