A FUEL company has denied deliberately hiking up prices at a service station in Helensburgh following the closure of the town's only other garage earlier this month.

The Esso outlet, at the Tesco Express store on East Clyde Street, had been accused of overcharging customers for petrol and diesel after the Waitrose supermarket, on Cardross Road, closed permanently on Sunday, May 4 along with the Shell garage next to it.

Prices for petrol at the Waitrose site were said to have been as low as 99p per litre before the closure, while the Tesco facility was charging around £1.04 per litre.

However, several Advertiser readers voiced concern on social media at reported increases in the price of fuel at the East Clyde Street site.

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And in a letter to the Advertiser, reader Dave Tipple said the Tesco site had pushed up the price to 107.9p per litre the day after the Waitrose store shut for good.

Mr Tipple said: "I fully understand that everything has a price and there is supply and demand, but it was blatantly obvious that once [the Waitrose garage] closed this would have an effect on the other petrol station in the town.

"As the world oil price is going down this is nothing more that robbery to the town's folk.

"We need another station in the town otherwise they will continue to overcharge us."

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A spokesman for Esso blamed the increase on "operational issues" and said that prices have now been lowered.

The spokesman said: "We recognise that the Helensburgh Tesco Alliance site provides an important role in the community, and that people rely on us to have fuel available, particularly while the town’s other service station remains closed.

"Due to a combination of operational factors impacting the Helensburgh Tesco Alliance site, the price for unleaded petrol and diesel was temporarily adjusted between approximately 5.30pm on Friday, May 1 and 3.30pm on Sunday, May 3.

"As soon as those operational factors had been resolved the prices were returned to their previous level where they have remained."

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Exxon Mobil, the parent company of Esso, announced at the start of May an estimated first quarter loss for 2020 of $610 million, compared with earnings of $2.4 billion a year earlier.

Darren Woods, chairman and CEO, said: “Covid-19 has significantly impacted near-term demand, resulting in oversupplied markets and unprecedented pressure on commodity prices and margins.

“While we manage through these challenging times, we are not losing sight of the long-term fundamentals that drive our business.

"Economic activity will return, and populations and standards of living will increase, which will in turn drive demand for our products and a recovery of the industry.”

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