The average petrol car owner will spend €680 more on fuel this year compared to 2020 and the average diesel owner will spend €700 more, according to AA Ireland during evidence at the Oireachtas Transport Committee this afternoon.

Tom McIlduff, AA CEO, said prices for petrol and diesel now are 62 cent and 70 cent more expensive than two years ago.

Earlier, the Consumer and Competition Protection Commission said it has received 200 complaints from public representatives and members of the public about fuel pricing over the last two weeks.

CCPC Chairman Jeremey Godfrey told the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment that the complaints in general referred to filling stations that failed to pass on the excise duty reduction in a timely manner or that they had exploited the current economic situation.

There were also complaints of filling stations turning off roadside price displays.

He said the CCPC is assessing those complaints and engaging with complainants and the industry and will assess any evidence that indicate collusive practices.

Mr Godfrey said the CCPC's mandate is ensuring prices are set independently and that prices are displayed at point of sale to allow customers make informed choices.

He said it is illegal for businesses to form a cartel, to fix prices or carve up the market.

Mr Godfrey told the committee that businesses can, however, observe competitors prices and set their own prices accordingly.

He also said selling at a high price is not defined by law as an unfair commercial practice as long as the price is accurately displayed and the consumer is not coerced into paying it.

He told the committee the CCPC has written to one trade association and two fuel companies about the competition law risks of making public statements about future increases in fuel prices and they continue to monitor public statements.

Fuels for Ireland Chief Executive Kevin McPartlan defended the industry against allegations of profiteering.

He said it was unhappy with the inference it engaged in profiteering and the repeated messaging that the excise reduction by the Government would apply from midnight on the night it was announced.

He said that could not have possibly happened as excise had already been paid on supplies on forecourts at that point.

He said this caused anger and frustration and gave people the false impression prices would reduce immediately.

He added that in the two days preceding the excise cut, the wholesale price of diesel has increased 20c while the excise cut was 15c.

He said the excise cut amounted to no more than a partial neutralisation of price increases.

David Blevings of the Irish Petrol Retailers Association said their members are mostly family-owned businesses, but the positive view of them has been severely damaged in the past two weeks.

He said retailers experienced widespread abuse, bordering on violence after the excise cut and some staff members refused to come to work following the abuse they received over allegations of price gouging in the media.

When the excise cut was introduced, retailers already had fuel in their tanks on which excise was paid and independent retailers sell at lower volumes so a load of fuel could last a week, he said.

He said they could not have passed on the excise cut immediately without taking a huge hit and losing money on fuel in their tanks.

The committee also heard that school transport providers are unable to guarantee services will continue until the end of the academic year due to high fuel costs.

JJ Kavanagh of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland told the committee a survey of providers found two-thirds of them have experienced a 60% increase in fuel costs in the last year.

90% of operators need a 35% increase in contract rates to continue to operate, and 95% said they are unable to guarantee service provision up until the end of the academic year in June.

Separately, the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications will hear that in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there was a point where there was only one day of commercial stock of diesel at Dublin Port.

The Irish Road Haulage Association will also address the committee to say its sector is in a "serious existential crisis".

It is calling on the Government to tackle the issue of high fuel prices for sectors that have a dependence on diesel fuel.

The IRHA says Brexit, driver shortages, and Covid-19 constraints have built up a "perfect storm" for hauliers.

IRHA President Eugene Drennan says the "ever-increasing costs of running a licensed haulage business are forcing people out of the sector".

He will call for "sufficient fuel rebates" for licensed hauliers, who he says are "essential users of diesel".

In his opening address to the committee, he will say there is nothing at EU level stopping the Government from introducing a new diesel rebate scheme.

The industry is also calling for additional fuel-saving measures to be introduced, such as altering traffic light sequences in urban areas, creating a toll-free channel for HGVs at toll booths, and changing the operating hours for depots at ports.

The IRHA President will also warn committee members that any loss in the effective functioning of the national haulage fleet will directly impact on many areas of the economy.

Mr Drennan's opening statement adds that the Government needs to accept "that diesel will be the fuel of necessity for our sector for at least the next ten years".

The association says it welcomes the recent announcement of an interim relief scheme to licensed hauliers to meet extra fuel costs and that the payment of €100 per week for each HGV on the road for an eight-week period will assist the sector in the short term, but that it is "very much only a stop gap measure".

After the eight-week period, the Government said a review of the scheme, which is costing the Exchequer €18m, will take place.

The Oireachtas meeting will be in two sessions and the committee is also hearing from representatives from AA Ireland, and the Coach Tourism and Transport Council.

Additional reporting Aengus Cox