After months of talk about creating some form of a public utilities commission which would combine the regulatory duties of several government authorities, the new agency has a name and the initial outline of how it would oversee fuel prices.
In a Discussion Paper released by the Ministry of Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure (PLAHI), Cabinet is said to have decided to enact legislation to establish an Office of Competition and Regulation. It would assume some or all of the functions currently handled by the Information and Communications Technology Authority, the Electricity Regulatory Authority, and the Water Authority. For regulating fuel prices, it would review the data collected by the Petroleum Inspectorate with its strengthened ability to compel fuel importers to share price information.
This form of a public utilities commission was promised by Premier (Hon.) Alden McLaughlin in October 2015 during a street demonstration about high gasoline prices.
In the Discussion Paper, government says the new agency would “continually assess the state of competition” to see if gas prices are reasonable, after taking into account shipping costs, storage, distribution, marketing and a “reasonable return” for sellers. If, after all that, the office feels there exists a “market failure,” it could recommend price regulation to Cabinet.
The office would also have to give its approval before any mergers could take place between companies in the fuel industry.
A public comment period is open until 15 July on the Discussion Paper. Eventually, a Fuels Market Bill will be drafted to put the new office into action. The Discussion Paper can be found here on the PLAHI website.