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Drivers fear Easter price hikes

Car fuel cost half as much in 2002 than these days, a motorists’ organisation has pointed out.

Arbö announced yesterday (Tues) that drivers had to fork out around 0.72 Euros for one litre of diesel petrol 10 years ago. The same amount of the fuel cost 1.42 Euros on average yesterday, the association of drivers explained. Arbö also said statistics for the price development of Eurosuper petrol were similar (2002: 0.85 Euros; 2012: 1.42 Euros).

The organisation appealed to keep a close eye on petrol stations’ pricing policy in the coming days as the Easter holidays are coming up. Austrian filling station managers have been criticised in past years for jacking up prices shortly before public holidays. Prices rose extraordinarily ahead of each year’s Easter break since the increasing temperatures traditionally tempt many Austrians to take a short holiday or visit relatives and friends.

The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) tried to apply pressure on People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner. The opposition faction said the minister must introduce directives which kept domestic oil trading companies and service stations from introducing significantly higher prices at Easter. BZÖ chief Josef Bucher said Mitterlehner had to protect drivers from further financial pain. He claimed that people who owned cars were already burdened by the latest package of tax increases disproportionately.

Statistics show that car petrol is, despite an upward pricing trend, comparably acceptable in Austria. Residents of most of the Central European country’s seven neighbouring states are confronted with higher fuel prices. These circumstances caused an activity colloquially known as fuel tourism. The term describes the thousands of foreigners coming to Austria a year only to refuel their vehicles. The fuel tourism helps the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP to hundreds of millions of Euros of additional mineral oil tax revenues each year.

Car fuel was 10 per cent more expensive last month than in February 2011, according to Statistik Austria. Other energy sector products such as gas (plus 11 per cent) became more costly too. The inflation was 2.6 per cent in February 2012, meaning that all kinds of products and services on offer in Austria cost 2.6 per cent more that month than in the same month of last year. This was the least significant increase since January 2011, statisticians said.

Steadily climbing petrol prices and several tax increases apparently failed to negatively affect Austrian car dealers' business last year. More than 356,145 new vehicles were registered for usage in Austria in 2011 – around 8.4 per cent more than in 2010, the previous record year for car sales.

Half of all the distances Austrians covered by car are no longer than five kilometres (km), according to the Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ). The VCÖ’s survey also shows that there are 616 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in the eastern province of Burgenland. This ratio ranks the region ahead of the country’s eight other regions. Lower Austria takes second place (610 cars per 1,000 residents), with the southern province of Carinthia (590) in third place.

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