Faced with gasoline prices that he considers abnormally high in the Quebec region, the Minister of the Economy and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, will mandate an auditor to examine the explanations submitted by fuel retailers that he had someone come to his office on Wednesday.
Coming out of his meeting with representatives of four companies that dominate the regional market, Mr. Fitzgibbon was unable to say whether he had been convinced by the argument put to him, namely that the operations of the stations- service are more difficult to make profitable in the capital and its surroundings, including Beauce.
“I’m not saying I buy it, but I think it’s an argument they asked us to look at, before concluding that their situation compares to other regions,” he said in a press briefing which followed his meeting.
Mr. Fitzgibbon announced that an auditor will be mandated by the government to examine the accounting of the four companies he had convened: Couche-Tard, Pétroles Cadeko, Harnois Énergies and Sobeys.
“They offered to meet us all individually to show their books,” said the minister, explaining their unanimity.
Some of their businesses would be limited to the sale of gasoline for various reasons, which would force them to rely only on fuel sales, hence their higher prices, unlike others who sell other products or offer car wash services.
“We are going to hire someone who will come to work, who will go and see each species to better understand the dynamics,” explained Mr. Fitzgibbon.
Contrary to market laws
In some cases, the force of competition could even have an effect contrary to the laws of the market.
“If there are too many in a good area at one time, they don’t make a profit,” he said. So they have to raise the price of gasoline. It’s not collusion, but it’s done globally. »
This meeting follows the tabling of a report from the Régie de l’énergie, commissioned by the minister, showing that profit margins had increased considerably at service stations in the Quebec region.
Before speaking with company representatives on Tuesday, Mr. Fitzgibbon had already expressed his astonishment.
“It’s not normal for margins to increase differently in different regions,” he said.
In October, the Régie de l’énergie noted that the average estimated net retail margin of service stations in the National Capital increased from 4.0 cents per liter to 10.27 cents per liter in two years.
“Previously below the average for all of Quebec, the estimated net retail margins of the Capitale-Nationale have been above the average for the rest of Quebec since 2021,” the report indicated.
According to Mr. Fitzgibbon, companies explained to him that this trend should be examined over a period of ten years and not five.
“Maybe they’re not wrong,” he slipped.