A MOVE by the Office of Fair Trading to improve competition in the supply of fuel to filling stations in the Western Isles has been welcomed in the islands.

The OFT has been investigating a possible infringement of competition law in the islands, where some of the highest fuel prices in the land are charged.

In particular, there has been scrutiny of the arrangements for the supply of petrol and diesel between Certas Energy UK Limited and certain filling stations. The OFT will consult on proposals from the company designed to address the regulator's concerns.

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These could end locked-in contracts between retailers on the islands and the firm, which require many filling stations on the islands to buy fuels exclusively from Certas for five years. Access to the company's marine terminals, in South Uist and Stornoway, could also be opened up to potential competitors.

Ann Pope, senior director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets group, said: 'These proposed commitments offer a real opportunity for alternative fuel suppliers to enter the market, which should ultimately help make fuel prices more competitive."

Kenneth Murray, chair of Western Isles Council's Environment and Protective Services, said: "It is essential that these commitments result in lower prices at the pumps for consumers."