Oil companies are operating a cartel by hiking the price of diesel, it was claimed in the Dáil today.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said diesel used to be cheaper than petrol but it had outstripped it in recent weeks at the fuel pumps.
The Dun Laoghaire TD also said UK retailers were ripping off Irish customers by marking up sterling prices on products by as much as 50%.
He said during Leaders’ Questions: “Diesel used to be cheaper than petrol. Today it is €1.39 a litre.
“Nobody can provide an explanation as to why diesel has shot ahead of petrol and why it is continuing to rise.
“The only explanation can be that oil companies, anticipating a shift to diesel for environmental reasons, are now taking the opportunity to hike up the price.
“These price increases are affecting people every day.”
He added: “The National Consumer Agency doesn’t seem to be doing anything.”
He called for the watchdog to be more efficient.
Mr Gilmore told the Dáil: "It appears the oil companies are engaged in some kind of cartel activity in order to hike up the price of diesel and rip off motorists and hauliers. The latter will have consequences down the line for jobs and businesses.''
Mr Cowen said Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan would be discussing the issue with the National Consumer Agency chief executive officer this week.
Mr Gilmore referred to a Sunday Business Post survey which claimed the prices of products in Irish branches of British retail outlets were up to 50% higher.
The study focused on stores run by big names like Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Argos and Laura Ashley.
He said: “These higher prices are being charged despite the fact that the euro has strengthened against sterling. The euro is now worth 80p sterling. At one stage, it was valued below 60p sterling.
“In such circumstances, one would have expected that the prices charged in the Irish branches of British retail outlets would have fallen. Instead, they are much higher than those charged in the UK.”
Mr Gilmore said a leading brand of detergent costs the equivalent of €12.50 in Tesco in Ireland while it cost €8.89 in a sister store in the UK.
Mr Cowen said: “The question of profiteering in respect of imports as a result of the difference in the currency exchange rate is a matter for the National Consumer Agency, the Competition Authority and the Department of Trade”.
But Mr Gilmore added: “The price of a loaf of bread is 20% higher than it was at this time last year and the price of a litre of milk increased by 30% in the same period.”
He told TDs: “If the rip-offs being visited upon consumers are not curtailed by the retailers responsible for them, the Government will be obliged to take action to remedy the situation.
“In light of the fact that the euro is strengthening against sterling, prices here should be falling and people should be reaping the benefits.
“However, consumers are not enjoying the benefits of that change.”