Anger at Fuel Price Hikes German Minister Urges Supermarkets To Start Selling Gasoline

German motorists may soon be able to fill up their cars with cheap gas while doing the grocery shopping. Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle is encouraging the country's biggest discount supermarket chains to start selling gasoline in a bid to cut prices through increased competition.
Discounters like Aldi are being urged to get into the gasoline business.

Discounters like Aldi are being urged to get into the gasoline business.

Foto: Maurizio Gambarini/DPA

In the face of constantly rising prices at German gas stations, Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle has called on the country's largest discount retailers such as Aldi  and Lidl to consider opening gas stations at their supermarkets.

He said competition from retailers could help bring gasoline prices down. "Prices are always best determined by competition. If the supply increases, the price falls," Brüderle, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, (FDP), told Bild newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

"That is why I'm happy about every additional competitor, and can only encourage businesses to enter the gasoline market."

According to the Automobile Club of Germany (ADAC), the national average price for a liter of gas stood at €1.49 ($1.97) last week. But in many places prices far exceeded €1.50. Last week diesel prices reached €1.33 a liter, 1.5 cents more than the week before.

In Austria, the Hofer discount chain, a subsidiary of the Aldi empire, has been selling gasoline at its supermarkets for around two years. Hofer has been able to undercut gas stations by a few cents to the liter and offer special seasonal promotions. For example, some customers have been able to fill up for as little as 99 cents a liter for gas or diesel.

When the Hofer supermarkets started selling gas in 2009, many of the German gasoline companies were concerned that it was a test case for the German market.

Now, it seems, politicians are ready to weigh in on the price debate too, threatening the multi-national oil companies with state-imposed price caps.

Heiko Maas, the regional leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party in the south-western state of Saarland, told Bild that it was time for politicians to get involved: "If the oil companies continue to push up prices at will, the government must react. It must be possible for Germany to follow the example set by Luxembourg and to impose price limits on petrol, oil and gas," he said.

jap -- with wire reports

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